The 2019 Triple Crown belonged to two trainers, one Hall of Famer and one likely soon-to-be Hall of Famer. Now, with the GI Belmont S. in the rearview and attention turning to the second-half push to the Breeders’ Cup, Mark Casse and Bill Mott will assess their respective pairs of championship contenders and map out a probable path to the GI Travers S. Aug. 24 at Saratoga.
Tracy Farmer’s Sir Winston (Awesome Again) and the Gary Barber-owned War of Will (War Front) were both tired Sunday morning, but otherwise fine after their trip of 1 1/2 miles around the Belmont oval. Their routine was limited to walking the shedrow and afterward, the Belmont winner settled down for a well-deserved nap in his stall.
“Both horses are good this morning,” Casse told the NYRA notes team. “From here they’re going to take separate paths and go their separate ways, but our goal is going to be the Travers for both.”
While Sir Winston will remain at Belmont under assistant trainer Jamie Begg’s care, War of Will had a reservation on a van departing at 12:30 p.m. and headed back to Kentucky, where he will return to Casse’s division overseen by assistant David Carroll. War of Will, who finished ninth in the Belmont, was the only horse to run in all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown, but Casse didn’t use that as an excuse for the colt’s poor performance in the Test of the Champion.
“I don’t think it was the Triple Crown campaign that caught up to War of Will,” he said. “I don’t really have an explanation for his race yesterday, but I’m not going to use the [three races in] five weeks as an excuse. The only thing I can tell you now is that he will be back.”
Casse also reflected on the chaos of this year’s Triple Crown and picking up his first two American Classic victories.
“It’s been an extremely good five weeks and a crazy five weeks, with lots of different emotions, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re extremely proud of it. I’m proud of our entire team, as this has been a team effort through and through.”
Meanwhile, Mott, who saddled GI Kentucky Derby winner Country House (Lookin At Lucky) and Derby third finisher and Belmont runner-up Tacitus (Tapit), said both horses will be sent to Saratoga in the next few weeks. He added that Tacitus, who was hindered by a wide trip in the Belmont, may run back in the GII Jim Dandy S. July 27 at the Spa.
“Tacitus certainly hasn’t disgraced himself at any point,” Mott said. “Even in the Derby, where he was fourth and then was moved up to third, he ran well. And he ran well yesterday. I think most anybody who saw the race yesterday probably knew that with a different trip the outcome would have been different. For sure there are a lot of dances left in the second half of the year. I hope there are good things still to come for him.”
As for Country House, who was forced to miss the final two jewels of the Triple Crown with an illness, Mott said he has returned to the track.
“Country House is doing well. He isn’t back breezing yet, but he is back galloping and is going to the track every day,” he said. “Keeping [him and Tacitus] separate is probably going to be impossible. I think that at some point, both are going to be running in the same types of races. If it’s a prep race or something like it, naturally you’d like to separate them, but if it’s a Grade I race, if they need to run against each other, it’s like, you know what? You’ve got to be fair to both ownerships and give them their best chance.”