LEXINGTON, KY – Gary Barber’s War of Will brought the wow factor with a late surge that ultimately won Friday’s $300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
Sent from the far outside post 10 under Tyler Gaffalione at 5/1 odds, War of Will was prominently-placed and running three-wide heading into the clubhouse turn before tapping on the brakes slightly and taking back.
High Crime led Parlor through opening fractions of :23.17 and :46.91 while War of Will continued tracking three-wide from third.
Off the far turn, High Crime still led, but Parlor put his head in front at the 1/8 pole and looked to be home clear, but War of Will dug deep and inched up alongside him in the late stages.
Surging in the shadow of the wire, War of Will nailed High Crime by a nose in a final time of 1:34.55 for the firm turf route.
“Tyler gave him a tremendous ride,” said winning trainer Mark Casse. “I wasn’t sure (at the finish if he won). I wasn’t sure until they put (his number) up. (My wife) Tina and I were just jumping up and down. It means so much to the horse. We love him so much.”
The hard-luck Parlor fought valiantly along the rail and withstood multiple Grade 1 winner Raging Bull‘s stretch rally by a neck for second.
Without Parole was a neck and a nose ahead of Emmaus and English Bee, respectively, with Hembree a 1/2-length further back.
High Crime, Everfast, and Next Shares completed the order of finish.
War of Will’s win was his first since taking last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1) and improved his overall record to 16-5-1-2 with $1,796,069 earned. The 4-year-old War Front colt began his career on turf, finishing second in the Summer Stakes (G1), fourth in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (G3), and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) before commencing a solid 2019 dirt campaign.
“Coming into this race, if you’d asked me two weeks ago, I was a little bit nervous,” said David Carroll, Casse’s assistant in Kentucky. “I didn’t think he was training quite as sharp as he could, but his last work was like, ‘OK he’s back.’ I felt a lot more confident. We’re happy to see him back on turf; he’s bred for it. Felt like today, with the pace scenario he’d be laying close, and what a ride for Tyler. It was an unbelievable race.”
War of Will returned $13.80 to win, $6.80 to place, and $3.60 to show. Parlor brought back $20.40 to place and $7 to show, while Raging Bull paid $2.40 to show.