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ARCADIA, CA – Newly-elected Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse is sending two of his best runners from his decidedly deep stable to California for the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes (G1) that will be run at Santa Anita Park on Memorial Day, May 25.
War of Will was originally meant to kick off his 2020 season in the 1 1/16-mile Sunshine Forever Stakes at Gulfstream Park on May 9, but Casse opted to scratch him in favor of the Shoemaker. After making the decision, Casse told the Daily Racing Form that it was due to a multitude of reasons: the small purse ($75,000), the deep field (including three graded stakes winners), and the outside draw in the 11-horse field.
“It’s not an easy spot for $75,000,” Casse said at the time. “Terrible post. We probably have as good a shot at winning a Grade 1.”
War of Will made his first four starts on turf, finishing second in the Summer Stakes (G1), fourth in the Bourbon Stakes (G3), and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) – all as a maiden. Following those strong efforts, Casse moved the War Front colt to the dirt, where he broke his maiden stylishly before commencing a strong 2019 campaign, all on that same surface.
“Thank goodness he had a terrible trip,” Casse said of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf effort that saw War of Will run four-wide throughout much of the race. “If he’d have won, he may have never tried the dirt, so sometimes you have to be happy with what doesn’t happen.”
The highlight of the year came when War of Will won the Preakness Stakes (G1) two weeks after a violent collision nearly sent him tumbling to the ground in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He finished the year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and has been working steadily toward a return.
“War of Will’s been training exceptionally well,” Casse said. “He’s a Grade 1 winner on dirt, so we’ll see if we can make him a Grade 1 winner on the turf.”
Joining War of Will on his trek west is his stablemate March to the Arch, who has won four stakes events on as many courses, including the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last June.
The 5-year-old Arch gelding kicked off 2020 winning the 1 1/16-mile Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park, then followed it with a pair of near-miss thirds in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) and the Appleton Stakes (G3).
Though he has finished fourth or fifth in three attempts at the Grade 1 level, he lost by just 1 length in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1) last October at Keeneland.
“March to the Arch has been unlucky in his last couple starts,” Casse said. “He could easily have won two of those. He’s a pretty good horse in his own right. He’s going to run well.”
Eight other probables are expected to face the Casse duo, all of whom are graded/group stakes winners (trainers in parenthesis):
The Shoemaker is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), an event that Casse has won twice: in 2017 with World Approval and in 2015 with Tepin. The 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held at Keeneland on November 6 and 7.
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