Is War of Will a Kentucky Derby Threat? Don’t Bet on It!

War of Will kept his undefeated record on the dirt intact with a convincing 4-length score in the LeComte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds, dropping his Kentucky Derby future odds to 40/1.

In two dirt starts, the Mark Casse-trained colt has earned identical Brisnet speed figures of 94 (last year, Justify recorded a 100 BSF in the Kentucky Derby) and produced excellent late speed rations of -1 and 0.

WarOfWill

So, is this horse a legitimate Kentucky Derby threat? No.

Here’s the problem: Those pace figures look very turf-like, which normally wouldn’t bother me, except that War of Will’s pedigree has more grass in it than Willie Nelson’s tour bus. To begin with, he is a son of War Front, who has shown an affinity for siring milers — specifically turf milers. And his dam (mother, for you non-racing folks) is the Irish-bred Visions of Clarity, who recorded both of her lifetime wins on the lawn in France (back in 2003).

More damning is the fact that, of the six sons and two daughters of Visions of Clarity to make it to the races, only Tacticus and War of Will show dirt wins.

VISIONS OF CLARITY
(Sadler’s Wells – Imperfect Circle, Riverman)

Progeny to Race: 8
Starts: 76
Turf Wins: 16
Dirt Wins: 3
AWS Wins: 1

Worse, War of Will’s full brother — Moving — was winless in the United States (in claiming company, no less) after breaking his maiden on the lawn in France. Granted, not all brothers are created equal — just ask my brother — but Moving’s dirt races don’t exactly inspire confidence.

I know what some of you are thinking: Why am I prattling on about War of Will’s lack of dirt prowess when he’s already won twice on the surface and was winless on the turf? Well, again, it’s the way he won that causes me concern. The soft early speed rations and outstanding LSRs he earned in those dirt affairs are what one typically sees from top turf horses.

And let’s be real: Casse is not exactly a slouch as a trainer — and he saw fit to run this guy on the grass in the first four races of his career. For me to believe that War of Will is the real deal he’s going to need to do one of two things:

1) Win or run well in a race after setting or pressing a fast pace (-10 ESR or less).
2) Win or run well after coming from further off the pace, while still recording a decent LSR (-10 or greater).

Until then, I’ll be keeping my money in my pocket.

Speed Rations Explained

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.