Unbeaten in 2019 after winning the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 16, War of Will (by War Front) has pushed some buttons for handicappers in search of challengers for the division leaders Game Winner (Candy Ride), Improbable (City Zip), Instagrand (Into Mischief), and Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man).
Only the last has raced in 2019, when he won the G2 Bob Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 2. With the exception of Mucho Gusto, all these horses are sired by stallions who were principally milers with excellent speed. That, however, is the norm with most contemporary classic contenders, unless they are sired by Empire Maker or his son Pioneerof the Nile; by a son of A.P. Indy like Bernardini, Congrats, Flatter, and Malibu Moon; or by Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, who has sired a pair of classic winners.
As a racehorse, War Front was a very fast miler who won a G2 race and was second in the G1 Forego at Saratoga over seven furlongs. Had he won the latter race, his initial position at stud would have been stronger, but War Front’s good looks, good speed, and good pedigree made him an attractive proposition for savvy breeders when the husky bay went to stud at Claiborne Farm in 2007.
The farm priced the shares in the horse right, and he proved very popular. His stock made an immediate hit at the sales, and then they made a bigger hit at the races with first-crop standouts like The Factor. Since then, War Front has sired high-class performers such as Air Force Blue, Roly Poly, U S Navy Flag, Brave Anna, and Declaration of War.
War of Will was bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings Limited, the bloodstock operation of the Niarchos family, and the attractive bay was an RNA at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale at $175,000. Taken to France and consigned to the 2018 Arqana May breeze-up sale under the banner of Oak Tree Farm, War of Will sold to Justin Casse, agent, for 250,000 euros and races for Gary Barber.
At the Arqana sale, War of Will was a well-grown and progressive bay with good length through the body, a good length of neck that balanced well with his body, allied with a shoulder and hindquarter that were strongly muscled without being coarse.
The colt progressed nicely and was initially tried on turf by trainer Mark Casse, where the colt ran second in the G1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, then ran acceptably but unplaced in the G3 Bourbon Stakes and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. War of Will won his maiden at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24 on the dirt and is since unbeaten. Plans for him include the G2 Louisiana Derby on March 23 before the race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
A success in the Kentucky Derby would make War of Will a very richly pedigreed classic winner. His dam, the Sadler’s Wells producer Visions of Clarity, won the listed Prix de Bagatelle at Maisons-Laffitte and has produced three stakes winners to date. The most notable of these is the Distorted Humor colt Pathfork, who was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile in Ireland, when he headed the Irish Free Handicap following victories in the G1 National Stakes and G2 Futurity Stakes.
Visions of Clarity is a half-sister to Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Spinning World (Nureyev), who also won the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Prix Jacques le Marois twice, and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. An elegant chestnut with a considerable personality, Spinning World was a highweight in Europe at 3 and 4 from 1400 to 2000 meters.
He and Visions of Clarity are out of the Riverman mare Imperfect Circle, winner of the Firth of Clyde Stakes and more importantly second in the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes at 2. She was one of three stakes winners out of G1 winner Aviance (Northfields), who also produced Denon (Pleasant Colony), winner of the G1 Turf Classic, Manhattan Handicap, Hollywood Derby, and Charlies Whittingham Handicap; and highweight Chimes of Freedom (Private Account), winner of the G1 Coronation Stakes and dam of G1 winners Aldebaran (Mr. Prospector; won Metropolitan Handicap) and Good Journey (Nureyev; Woodbine Mile).
Racing on turf, primarily in Europe, this family is notable for its inherent miler-hood. The very best of them, however, including Chimes of Freedom, Denon, and Spinning World, were capable of stepping past that. So, the great question for War of Will is whether the switch to dirt and American pace tactics truly will place that 10th furlong within his grasp.