War of Will made a big move up the list of contenders for Kentucky Derby 2019 when he ran off to a four-length victory in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course.

 

All along his trainer Mark Casse has had high hopes for this son of War Front, “This was about a month ago, but I had some friends over and I said ‘We have a big chance to win the Derby this year.’  I don’t usually say things like that, so that tells you what I think of him.”

 

Being a son of a prolific turf sire, he began his career with four races on the grass that included three graded stakes. He was competitive in all four of them but did not get a win. After running fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Casse made the move to the dirt.

 

On a sloppy track at Churchill Downs War of Will got his maiden victory. Turf horses often transition well to wet dirt tracks, so the question remained whether he was really a dirt horse.

 

Asked and resoundingly answered in the Lecomte when the Gary Barber-owned colt sat smartly just off the pace in an outside path waiting to get his cue from jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

 

“My horse broke sharp,” Gaffalione said. “It looked like (Manny Wah) had a little more speed going into the turn and I took him back and went to his outside to try and get the best trip possible. He relaxed for me on the backside and when they came down to run, he really turned it on.”

 

With the victory War of Will moved up to the ninth spot on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. He upped his career earnings to $251,569 with a record of 6: 2-1-1.

Since Casse is based at the New Orleans track, it is likely that bay colt will continue his Derby preparations there.

 

I’ll talk to Gary but (the Grade 2 $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on February 16) would make the most sense, it’s why we’re here,” added Casse. “We love this place and it’s a great place to get a horse ready. I don’t know that there would be a real reason to leave.”

Photo of War of Will courtesy of Hodges Photography