Industry Press

Preakness Winner War of Will Returns in Shoemaker Mile

Last May, War of Will, a half-brother to Ridgemont Highlands’ Pathfork, had a career-defining moment when he captured the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

Easier plotted than done. One of a handful of top-level stakes this month due to altered schedules from COVID-19, the race drew some of the top short-distance grass horses in the country, including grade/group 1 winners Voodoo Song, Next Shares, River Boyne, Without Parole, and Raging Bull.

Fittingly for a race at this level, the Shoemaker Mile is a “Win and You’re In” prep toward the Nov. 7 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) at Keeneland. The race, named for legendary Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker, will be televised live on TVG and NBCSN.

War of Will even faces competition from stablemate March to the Arch, who won the Wise Dan Stakes (G2T) at Churchill Downs last year.

G1 winner Pathfork is already the sire of G1 winner Mighty High

G1 winner Pathfork is already the sire of G1 winner Mighty High

For War of Will, who has not raced since finishing ninth in the Nov. 2 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, the Shoemaker is a tall order to kick off his 4-year-old year, which trainer Mark Casse is eager to begin.

“He’s been training super. I’m excited to run him,” said the newly elected Hall of Famer.

The Gary Barber-owned colt has been breezing since late February, mostly at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. Two of those breezes were on turf, including a bullet five-furlong move in :57.65 April 12. Since then, he has recorded four workouts on dirt.

Although War of Will raced exclusively on dirt in nine races last year, he has familiarity with grass racing from his 2-year-old season. He raced four times on grass that year, running third in a maiden race, second in the Summer Stakes (G1T), fourth in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (G3T), and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). He closed his juvenile campaign with a dirt win in the slop at Churchill.

Casse said the bid for major wins on two surfaces was meant to enhance War of Will’s résumé, making him an even more coveted stallion prospect.

“He’s a beautiful horse, has a beautiful pedigree,” he said.

Flavien Prat will ride.

Copy: Bryon King, Bloodhorse