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Sunshine Forever Preview: War of Will Makes 2020 Debut
War of Will training before last fall's Breeders' Cup Classic (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Sunshine Forever Preview: War of Will Makes 2020 Debut

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1) champion War of Will is set to make his 2020 debut in Saturday’s $75,000 Sunshine Forever Stakes at Gulfstream Park as he returns to turf for the first time in a year and a half.

The Sunshine Forever is slated as the ninth event on a 12-race card that will also include a mandatory payout of the Rainbow 6 jackpot. The track’s post time for the day’s sole stakes is listed as 4:59 PM Eastern.

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1. Just Whistle (8/1) (Main Track Only) – The field’s lone MTO entry will need a drastic change in Saturday’s weather (currently forecast to be 87 and partly cloudy) in order to make the field, but if he does, he should have a shot. The Helen Groves homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile was most recently second, beaten 1 length, in the 1 1/8-mile Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) over the local dirt on March 28.

2. Sand Dancer (20/1) – Tim Hills sends him out in search of his first score in his ninth attempt against stakes foes and seems to be in his best form following a second here against allowance/optional claiming foes on March 15. The 5-year-old Eskendereya gelding won the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct and was second, beaten 1 length, in the Hill Prince Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park back in 2018.

3. El Tormenta (12/1) – A career-best performance resulted in a 44/1 upset in last September’s Woodbine Mile Stakes (G1) and earned him a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), where he finished sixth. He finished last of 12 in his most recent effort, the local Appleton Stakes (G3) on March 28, and trainer Gail Cox is removing the blinkers to help him bounce back in his second start off of a 147-day layoff.

4. Aquaphobia (10/1) – Claimed for $62,500 three back, trainer Mike Maker quickly turned him back into a stakes winner when he won the Old Man Eloquent over this same course and distance on February 17. He missed hitting the board by 1 length last time out in the 1 1/8-mile Muniz Memorial Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds, but he returns to a distance he has shown to enjoy (15-4-4-4 record at 1 1/16 miles).

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5. Cullum Road (20/1) – A five-time stakes-placed Quality Road gelding, his first start of 2020 will come from the Ignacio Correas IV barn after owner Daniel Kessler purchased him for $150,000 at auction in January. His most recent effort was a neck defeat in the 1 1/8-mile River City Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs to that race’s defending champion.

6. Halladay (4/1) – This well-bred 4-year-old son of War Front, out of the Tapit mare Hightap, was an impressive gate-to-wire winner here on April 4 while going 1 mile against allowance/optional claiming rivals. Luis Saez is back aboard the Todd Pletcher trainee, whose lone off-the-board effort came two back when finishing fourth in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3).

7. Hawkish (10/1) – He won the 2018 Penn Mile Stakes (G2) to cap a 3-year-old season that saw him post a 5-3-0-0 record and was a 1/2-length away from winning both stakes starts in the summer of 2019. He is unraced since running last of seven in last October’s Belmont Turf Sprint Stakes, his only career one-turn race, but he fired a 5-furlong bullet best-of-13 work in :59.60 on May 2.

8. Regally Irish (20/1) – The Isabelle de Tomaso homebred was a 1/2-length away from winning the Irish War Cry Stakes – named for another de Tomaso homebred – at Monmouth Park last June and also won the 6-furlong Bridgetown Stakes earlier that year at Aqueduct. His 2020 debut here on April 4 saw him finish last of 10, but trainer Graham Motion has a 23% win rate with runners making their second start after a layoff of 180+ days.

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9. Social Paranoia (3/1) – Known throughout his career for his stalking running style, the Todd Pletcher trainee employed new tactics last time out to great aplomb, rallying from last to win the Appleton Stakes (G3) in his 2020 debut. The 4-year-old son of Street Boss has only missed the board once in 12 lifetime starts, finishing fourth (a neck behind third) in last summer’s Saratoga Derby.

10. Highland Sky (15/1) – This will be his first start at a distance this short since finishing sixth in the local mile-long Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) on March 3, 2018. Absent since finishing sixth in the 1 1/2-mile Japan Turf Cup Stakes at Laurel Park last September, the Barclay Tagg trainee may be using this race to run him back into shape for longer events later in the year.

11. Admission Office (5/2) – Traditionally a late closer, he will hope for a fast early pace and a clean trip in order to get the job done under Joel Rosario, who has ridden him to a win and a pair of 1/2-length defeats in three prior mounts. The Brian Lynch trainee has only missed the board twice in 12 career starts – the 2019 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1) and the 2020 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).

12. War of Will (10/1) – The defending Preakness Stakes (G1) champion makes his return to the lawn, over which he initially ran (4-0-1-1 record) before launching a successful dirt campaign (10-4-0-1). Newly-named Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse thought highly enough of this 4-year-old War Front colt to run him in the Summer Stakes (G1), the Bourbon Stakes (G3), and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) as a maiden.

UPDATE: Trainer Mark Casse told TVG’s Britney Eurton that War of Will will scratch from race and point to Shoemaker Mile (G1), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for the Mile division tentatively scheduled for May 25 at Santa Anita Park.

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