NEW ORLEANS, LA – Gary Barber’s War of Will, graded stakes-placed on turf as a juvenile, made it two straight wins over the dirt when he romped home sharply in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds.
Breaking from post 8 under Tyler Gaffalione as the 8/5 favorite, War of Will was forced to run wide into the clubhouse turn while Malpais and Manny Wah dueled through opening fractions of :24.33 and :49.22. Effortlessly ranging up to run three-wide heading into the far turn, War of Will collared the pacesetters and emerged onto the front stretch with a narrow lead. Pulling away with every step he took, the Mark Casse trainee crossed with a 4-length advantage in a final time of 1:43.44 for the 1 mile and 70 yard event over the fast main track.
“My horse broke sharp,” Gaffalione said. “It looked like (Manny Wah) had a little more speed going into the turn, and I took him back and went to his outside to try and get the best trip possible. He relaxed for me on the backside, and when they came down to run, he really turned it on.”
Hog Creek Hustle came charging from midpack to take second by 2 lengths over a four-way photo finish for third. Manny Wah was ultimately placed third over Wicked Indeed, who headed Plus Que Parfait for fourth, while Chase the Ghost was a neck back in sixth. Roiland necked out seventh over Night Ops, with Tackett a nose behind in ninth. Tight Ten, a spent Malpais, and Mo Speed (who was eased in the stretch and walked off prior to crossing the finish line) completed the order of finish. Admire, Mr. Money, and West Texas were scratched.
The LeComte is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. War of Will earned 10 points for the win, with Hog Creek Hustle receiving 4 for second, Manny Wah 2 for third, and Wicked Indeed 1 for fourth.
War of Will’s win was his second straight following a maiden-breaking romp over a sloppy Churchill Downs main track on November 24 and improved his overall record to 6-2-1-1. The 3-year-old son of War Front, who finished second in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, increased his earnings to $251,569.
“This was about a month ago, but I had some friends over, and I said, ‘We have a big chance to win the Derby this year,'” Casse said. “I don’t usually say things like that, so that tells you what I think of him. I’ll talk to Gary, but (the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on February 16) would make the most sense, it’s why we’re here. We love this place and it’s a great place to get a horse ready. I don’t know that there would be a real reason to leave.”
War of Will returned $5.20 to win, $3.80 to place, and $3.20 to show. Hog Creek Hustle brought back $10 to place and $6 to show, while Manny Wah paid $6 to show.