By Steve Sherack
The road to the GI Kentucky Derby continues through New Orleans this weekend as the streaking War of Will (War Front) headlines a full field of sophomores entered for Saturday’s GII Risen Star S.
The Gary Barber colorbearer, a €250,000 ARQMAY juvenile purchase, made it a perfect two-for-two on dirt with a tour-de-force, four-length win over Hog Creek Hustle (Overanalyze) in the GIII Lecomte S. at Fair Grounds Jan. 19. The bay will move in one slot to post 13 as the Bob Baffert-trained Kingly (Tapit) will instead remain in California for Saturday’s $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate.
War of Will, tabbed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Risen Star, turned in a sharp, four-furlong breeze in :47 1/5 (2/135) at trainer Mark Casse’s Fair Grounds base Feb. 9.
“It’s pretty well the same bunch that he’ll be up against,” Casse said in the Fair Grounds Barn Notes. “Obviously, the post is outside, but we’d rather be out there than inside. He’s got enough speed, so he’ll get over, and if he’s as good as we think he is, it shouldn’t matter.”
Country House (Lookin At Lucky) heads straight to the big leagues for Hall of Famer Bill Mott following a ‘TDN Rising Star’ performance at third asking after badly blowing the break at Gulfstream Jan. 17. His runner-up effort in his prior start at Aqueduct was further flattered when the winner Kentucky Wildcat (Tapit) returned to finish a strong second in last weekend’s GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa.
Mr. Money (Goldencents), scratched out of the Lecomte with a fever, makes his first start since finishing a respectable fourth at 41-1 in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs Nov. 2. He worked a five-furlong bullet in 1:00 1/5 (1/21) at Fair Grounds Feb. 8.
“It was unfortunate timing,” trainer Bret Calhoun said in the barn notes of Mr. Money’s setback. “I thought we had a great plan and timing wise the race was good, but he came up with a temperature and was sick the day before. It passed pretty quickly though. I think he only missed a few days of training. The horse is doing very, very well and I couldn’t be happier with where he is in his training.”
The first three finishers of a local salty optional claimer Jan. 17–Owendale (Into Mischief), Frolic More (More Than Ready) and Gun It (Tapit)–all make their stakes debuts.