Gary Barber's War of Will has already proven he can compete against the top 3-year-olds in the country when he won the Grade 1 Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico. After running in all three legs of the Triple Crown, the War Front colt will again face top-level talent as part of a six-horse field in Saturday's Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course.
The 56th running of the Jim Dandy, contested at 1 1/8 miles, is Race 11 on the 12-race card that will also feature the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at six furlongs and the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf. A traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 24.
||Ricardo Santana, Jr.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
||War of Will
War of Will, who earned a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade 3 LeComte and the Grade 2 Risen Star earlier in the campaign at Fair Grounds, was placed seventh in the "Run for the Roses" on May 4 at Churchill. He roared back to best a 13-horse Preakness field, giving trainer Mark Casse his first career win in a Classic by virtue of his 1 ¼-length score at 1 3/16 miles.
After running ninth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 8 in the 1 ½-mile test won by stablemate Sir Winston, War of Will continued to train, first at Keeneland and Churchill Downs in Kentucky before shipping to Saratoga in preparation for his Spa debut. After two breezes on the main track, Casse said all that's left is for him to prove it on race day.
"He's good and he's ready," Casse said. "The best way to describe it is that he's in a good place. We're happy. A lot of times, a trainer will say, 'I wish I could have done this or that.' That's not the case here. I'm happy with him. It's up to him now."
War of Will, purchased for $298,550 as a 2-year-old, has already amassed $1,491,569 in earnings, going 4-1-1 in 11 career starts, earning graded stakes blacktype at Woodbine, Fair Grounds and Pimlico.
After contesting his first four starts on the grass, including a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Summer at Woodbine and a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, War of Will switched to the main track and won his first three dirt starts, including two graded stakes.
"We trained him here last year and he liked the track," Casse said. "He just reconfirmed this year that he gets over it nicely. We're ready and hopefully he brings his A game. They still have to beat him, I think."
All 11 of War of Will's previous starts have come against double-digit size fields, and Casse said the nine-furlong distance should suit War of War.
"He's won at a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and three-sixteenths, so a mile and eighth shouldn't be a problem," Casse said.
Tyler Gaffalione will ride from post 6.
Juddmonte Farms' Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus is also back in action for the first time since the "Test of the Champion," drawing post 5 with regular rider Jose Ortiz back in the irons.
Tacitus finished in the top-three in both of his Classic appearances for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, placing third in the Kentucky Derby following Maximum Security's disqualification before running second by a length to Sir Winston in the Belmont Stakes last month.
The Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner has finished in the money in five of his six starts, all at one mile or longer, including a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 before winning the Wood at Aqueduct Racetrack a month later.
Entering his first race at Saratoga, the Tapit colt has breezed four times over the Oklahoma training track, including a four-furlong work in 48.71 seconds before the rain came in on Monday.
"He's good; he worked a couple of days ago and looked good this morning," said Mott, who has won the Jim Dandy three times, most recently with Good Samaritan in 2017. "His works have been very steady. They've been very similar to what they've been all spring. He's good going 9-to-10 furlongs. It looked like he could be good up to a mile and a half, but he can still be effective at a mile an eighth."
Laughing Fox, fifth in the Preakness, will be looking for his first win since the Oaklawn Invitational on May 4 at the Jim Dandy distance. A $375,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Sale last year, Laughing Fox made his debut at Saratoga in August last year before breaking his maiden at third asking in January at Oaklawn.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who won last year's Jim Dandy with Tenfold, Laughing Fox is a son of Union Rags. Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., aboard for that win on Tenfold, will have the return engagement for Saturday, departing from post 1.
"I'm very pleased with how he's trained up here," Asmussen said. "Obviously, it's a very good race with who is targeting it. I think that Laughing Fox's best is still ahead of him."
R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable's graded-stakes winner Tax will rematch against War of Will and Tacitus following a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
After running placing 14th in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Danny Gargan made an equipment change for the Belmont. The Wood Memorial runner-up has been successful running in New York, winning the Grade 3 Withers in February at Aqueduct after running third in the Grade 2 Remsen over the same track on December 8.
"He's doing really well. His hair coat looks better than it's ever looked," Gargan said. "He's eating better. Ever since we glued his front shoes, he's really come around a lot. I definitely think he's better now than he's ever been. I expect him to move forward three or four lengths. He came out of the Belmont better than he went in it. Ever since that, we've kind of been pointing to this race. He's never gone backwards at all."
The son of Arch has worked twice at Saratoga since shipping from Belmont, including a four-furlong breeze in 47.09 on Saturday over the main track.
"Obviously, [Tacitus] is a special horse. [War of Will] can run big races, too, and [Global Campaign] is a really good horse," Gargan said. "It's going to be a horse race. If I could win it, it'd be great. I just want to run big in it. If he keeps going forward, he's got a big future. And, we still have the turf that we've played around with trying but it's hard to put him on it right now because he's doing so well on the dirt. He's definitely getting better with age."
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride from post 2.
Grade 3 Peter Pan-winner Global Campaign, owned by Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm, has earned a trip to the winner's circle in three of his four career starts. The Stanley Hough trainee earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his 1 ¼-length win in the Peter Pan at the Jim Dandy distance on May 11 at Belmont, making him the field's only entrant to have cracked triple digits in his career.
Luis Saez will be aboard and will break from post 4.
Centennial Farms' Mihos, fourth last out in the Grade 3 Dwyer on Stars & Stripes Day on July 6 at Belmont, will be looking for his first graded stakes win.
Conditioned by Jimmy Jerkens, the Cairo Prince colt won the Mucho Macho Man in January at Gulfstream. He drew post 3 in his Saratoga bow with Junior Alvarado picking up the mount.
Tax on target for G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga
Graded stakes winner Tax, exiting a sharp final work in good shape, remains on target to make his return in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, July 27.
Working in company, Tax blazed four furlongs over the main track in 47.09 seconds Saturday, the fastest of 70 horses at the distance. It was his second work at Saratoga, following a half in 49.95 on July 13, and third since his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Trainer Danny Gargan said Sunday morning that the gelded 3-year-old son of Arch is doing better than ever heading into the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, Saratoga's traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, to be run for the 150th time Saturday, August 24.
"He looks great. He's doing phenomenal. I couldn't be happier. He's training great," Gargan said. "It was a big-time breeze. We worked him easy last week, so I planned on working him in company. When he works in company, he tends to have fast works.
"I was really pleased with him. We put a workmate three or four lengths in front of him and he just went right on by. That was the planned way to do it, just in case," he added. "He showed he can sit second and pass horses; he's done it. Obviously, we want to be forwardly placed. If there's no speed, we'll be on the lead. If someone wants to be stupid, we'll sit second, but I'm not taking far back."
The Jim Dandy will be the eighth career start and sixth straight in graded company, all since being claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden triumph last fall at Keeneland. He has a win, a second and a third at the Jim Dandy distance, taking the Grade 3 Withers by a head despite stumbling at the start February 2 at Aqueduct in his sophomore debut.
In the 1 ½-mile Belmont, Tax pressed a moderate pace set by Joevia and made a bid at the quarter pole before falling back to fourth behind Sir Winston, 1 ¾ lengths behind runner-up Tacitus, with Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will checking in ninth.
War of Will and Tacitus are also being pointed to the Jim Dandy, along with Grade 3 Peter Pan winner Global Campaign, Oaklawn Park Invitational winner and Preakness fifth-place finisher Laughing Fox, and maiden winner Highest Honors.
"He's doing really well. His hair coat looks better than it's ever looked. He's eating better. Ever since we glued his front shoes, he's really come around a lot. I definitely think he's better now than he's ever been. I expect him to move forward three or four lengths," Gargan said. "He came out of the Belmont better than he went in it. Ever since that, we've kind of been pointing to this race. He's never gone backwards at all."
Gargan said he was impressed with the energy Tax showed following his most recent work, a sign that the trainer feels has him sitting on a big race.
"After we gave him a bath and he cooled out we had to put a lip shank on him to walk him. He was squealing and rearing," Gargan said. "Obviously, [Tacitus] is a special horse. [War of Will] can run big races, too, and [Global Campaign] is a really good horse. It's going to be a horse race. If I could win it, it'd be great. I just want to run big in it. If he keeps going forward, he's a gelding, he's got a big future. And, we still have the turf that we've played around with trying but it's hard to put him on it right now because he's doing so well on the dirt. He's definitely getting better with age."
Code of Honor May Skip the Jim Dandy for Travers Run
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Code of Honor will more than likely bypass the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy in favor of training up to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24.
Owned by William S. Farish, Code of Honor was a recent winner of the Grade 3 Dwyer, following his second-place result in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
"I haven't decided, still on the fence," McGaughey said. "He's made great progress here in the last few days and I'm probably leaning more towards the Travers as opposed to running in both, just to give him more time in between races."
The Dwyer was a second graded stakes victory for Code of Honor, who took the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on March 2 before finishing third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby to Maximum Security.
The chestnut colt is by Noble Mission and out of the graded stakes winning Dixie Union broodmare Reunited.
McGaughey has won the Travers three times with Easy Goer (1989), Rhythm (1990) and Coronado's Quest (1998).
War of Will & Tacitus sharp in Jim Dandy Breeze
Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will breezed in company with John C. Oxley's Strike Silver at 5:45 a.m. on Saturday as the sun rose over the Saratoga main track.
With Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, War of Will, breezing outside of Strike Silver, overtook his stablemate down the lane and galloped out strong. The horse known as 'WOW' covered five furlongs in 1:00.43 with Strike Silver, stopping the clock in 1:00.64.
Trainer Mark Casse said he was pleased with both horses, with War of Will targeting the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on Saturday, July 27 and Strike Silver pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam on July 28, both at Saratoga Race Course.
"He always amazes me how effortlessly he does things," said Casse of War of Will. "We wanted to let him gallop out some and I didn't with the other horse, so the other horse didn't gallop out. I wanted to put a little air into him [War of Will]. He looks great."
Strike Silver won the Indian Summer at Keeneland in October and last out finished fourth in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day, June 8.
"Strike Silver is a pretty good horse. We wanted a good work out of both horses because he's going to run in the Amsterdam," said Casse.
War of Will contested all three legs of the Triple Crown, placing a troubled seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby ahead of his Preakness coup. Last out, War of Will finished ninth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, which was won by stablemate Sir Winston.
Casse said War of Will is blossoming as he prepares for a summer campaign expected to include the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24.
"He's put on about 100 pounds and his color is really good. He doesn't look like a horse that has been through the wars of the Triple Crown," said Casse. "As long as he comes out of this happy and healthy and shows good energy, I think the Jim Dandy makes sense."
Tracy Farmer's Sir Winston, who thrived at Belmont with a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Peter Pan before his Classic score in the Belmont Stakes, is enjoying some down time at Casse's farm in Ocala while recovering from an ankle injury.
Casse said he is hopeful the Awesome Again chestnut will return to action this year.
"He hurt his ankle after the Belmont. It was just a minor injury. He's in Ocala and doing great. I was just with him a couple days ago. I'm hoping to get another start in him at the end of the year. He'll start back training in about two weeks," said Casse.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott was a busy man one day following an impressive maiden victory on Friday's card with 2-year-old filly Vast, for owners and breeders Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider.
On Saturday morning, Mott sent multiple graded stakes winners Tacitus and Yoshida in tandem to breeze over the Oklahoma training track.
Working in company, Tacitus completed the five-furlong breeze in 1:01 flat and Yoshida in 1:00.90.
Targeting a start in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, Tacitus posted his third breeze since finishing second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
Mott said he was pleased with the work from the homebred son of Tapit for Juddmonte Farms.
"Real good work," said Mott on horseback. "I thought they both went well. We just want to keep them happy, healthy and stay on their respective courses."
Tacitus broke his maiden in his second start at Aqueduct Racetrack and emerged on the Kentucky Derby trail by winning the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March in his next start. He secured the top spot on the Kentucky Derby qualifying points leaderboard with a victory in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets at the Big A, and placed third in the Derby following the disqualification of Maximum Security.
Mott said Tacitus has kept his good form following the Belmont Stakes.
"He's pretty much about the same as we had him for the Belmont," said Mott. "He was going good into that race and he's continued to do so."
Yoshida, a multiple graded stakes winner in his own right for owners China Horse Club International, Winstar Farm, and Head of Plains Partners is looking to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on Saturday, August 3.
The 5-year-old Japanese bred son of Heart's Cry has yet to hit the board in three starts this year. Yoshida finished sixth in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 26 at Gulfstream, the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse, and last out in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill.
"He's continued to stay on course," said Mott. "If we continue to be pleased with how he's doing we'll give him a shot in the Whitney."
Vast, a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Sower and also to Mott's stable pony Round, won her debut by a half-length at odds of 12-1.
Mott said he was pleased with the daughter of multiple graded stakes winner Lea, who he also trained.
"You have to be pleased first time out of the box to have her run that way," said Mott. "It's exciting and we're keeping it in the family with the victory also being from her brother to my stable pony."