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War of Will ready for second half of campaign

War of Will ready for second half of campaign

Field of six for the Jim Dandy includes Tacitus and Preakness winner War of Will
War of Will ready for second half of campaign
After finishing ninth in the Belmont, trainer Mark Casse is looking forward to running War of Will in the Jim Dandy.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- It was a little surprising to some when New York Racing Association oddsmaker David Aragona made the Preakness winner third choice of six horses entered in the Jim Dandy.

And maybe by the time those horses break from the starting gate for the Grade II $600,000 race on Saturday, the bettors' collective opinion will express something different.

Either way, trainer Mark Casse is eager to finally move past all the pre-race speculation and get War of Will back in a race -- and hopefully back in the winner's circle -- after a ninth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

"Oh, well," Casse said with a grin and a shrug, about the morning line. "The one thing I've always said is, 'This is not a pony show.' You have to run."

Wood Memorial winner Tacitus, runner-up to Sir Winston in the Belmont and third (via Maximum Security's disqualification) in the Kentucky Derby, is the 7-5 favorite, and Peter Pan winner Global Campaign is 2-1, followed by War of Will at 5-2.

Also on the Jim Dandy card, sprint star Mitole will try to win his eighth straight in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt against six rivals that include 2018 Vanderbilt winner Imperial Hint, and 2018 Grade II Bowling Green winner Channel Maker is back to try to win that race again, as the 7-2 morning-line favorite in a wide-open race.

War of Will is the only horse to have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and regained some measure of high standing in the 3-year-old male division with his Preakness win at Pimlico on May 18.

He got some time off from hard training after the Belmont, and Casse is recharged for the summer and fall, since War of Will appears to be in a similar state of mind.

"I was disappointed when he didn't run well, and whenever one of your stars disappoints you, you're anxious to get them back out and show the world that that was a fluke," Casse said. "In the Derby, he ran his butt off. The Belmont, you can come up with different scenarios and different reasons, but he didn't come with his 'A' game that day, for whatever reason it was. So you're anxious to see them get back in there and show that 'A' game.

"He's been training as good and looks as good as he ever has, so there's no reason for him to not be at that level."

Trainer Bill Mott told NYRA that Tacitus' workout pattern has resembled what he was doing in the mornings this spring, when he won the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood, then ran well in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont.

Like War of Will, Tacitus will be cutting back in distance in the Jim Dandy.

"He's good going 9-to-10 furlongs," Mott said. "It looked like he could be good up to a mile and a half, but he can still be effective at a mile and an eighth."

That's also the case for Tax, who was 14th (through DQ) in the Kentucky Derby and a solid fourth in the Belmont.

Global Campaign, meanwhile, is the most lightly raced horse in the field, waylaid this spring when he injured a hoof while finishing fifth in the Fountain of Youth on March 2. He came back to win the Grade III Peter Pan at Belmont on May 11, while everyone else in his class was battling through the Triple Crown races.

"He's been his own worst enemy in a couple places. He's done a couple things in the morning, and the race down in Florida, he almost tore his  quarter completely off," trainer Stanley Hough said, referring to a region on the side of the hoof wall. "We've had to deal with a lot of issues since that point, and he seems like he's doing pretty good right now.

"He's never been able to train the way you'd like to. His first couple races were no problem, but after that, it became a problem, missing time. We've always thought that if he didn't have any issues but the average ones, he still has some room to improve."

War of Will will break from the outside, with Tacitus just to his inside, and Global Campaign is in the No. 4 post, which should suit him and jockey Luis Saez, Hough said.

In the Peter Pan, he sat off the early pace and held off War of Will's stablemate, Sir Winston, who would go on to win the Belmont.

"We love the post position, just because, going into that first turn, you'd rather have the option to stay where you're at, rather than worrying about a horse coming over on you on the inside and getting over on the outside," Hough said. "I think it'll be moderate speed. I don't necessarily see any front-runners in there, so I think we'll be in the first three horses.

"We'd love to have a horse to follow. But if the pace was at that [slow] rate, Saez knows the horse, and he's going to have to make that call."

A.G. VANDERBILT

Imperial Hint has enjoyed a spectacular career, with 12 wins from 21 starts for earnings over $1.8 million.

He has been close in the Breeders' Cup Sprint twice, won back-to-back Grade I races last year (A.G. Vanderbilt, Vosburgh), and was just two lengths behind X Y Jet in the $2.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30.

But strong recent form can be difficult to beat, and the Steve Asmussen-trained Mitole has that and then some, with convincing wins in the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, Grade I Churchill Downs and Grade I Met Mile.

"The horse was doing great going into last year's race," said Imperial Hint's trainer, Luis Carvajal Jr. "He was just coming off winning the Grade II [True North]. This year, it will be an interesting race. A couple of nice horses, like Asmussen's horse, so it will be interesting to see this year."

BOWLING GREEN

Besides Channel Maker, who won the Grade I Man 'o War at Belmont on May 11 before finishing fourth to Bricks and Mortar in the Grade I Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day, Sadler's Joy has also had some Grade I success at Saratoga.

He won the Grade I Sword Dancer in 2017. He just missed in the Bowling Green last year,a half-length behind a dead-heat between Channel Maker and Glorious Empire.

"He does really well here," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "Since we got up here, he's been happy and training good. It seems like he's ready to go and put in a good effort as always. He's run some really good races here."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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