by Jeremy Plonk
July 13, 2020
Each Monday, I’ll select my Most Valuable Pony from the previous week’s racing action around the country. Who won the week? It could be a breakout performer, a known stakes commodity or the horse lifting the most loot. Chime in on Twitter @Xpressbet with your thoughts on who should be each week’s MVP.
July 6-12, 2020
MVP: War of Will
Owner: Gary Barber
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Performance: The 2019 Grade 1 Preakness winner delivered a historic double when mowing down his turf rivals in the July 10 Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland. War of Will overcame a difficult 10-post draw in a field of 10, but earned and secured a good, pressing position under Tyler Gaffalione and won a three-way photo by a nose. Among those dispatched were Grade 1/Group 1-winning turf specialists Raging Bull, Without Parole and Next Shares. The win snapped a 5-race losing streak since last May’s Preakness, but was a massive move in the right direction for the 4-year-old son of War Front.
On Tap: The stakes world now is his to venture with potential to play in Breeders’ Cup divisions like the Mile, Dirt Mile and Classic. He’s likely to have 1 or 2 more starts between now and a return date to Keeneland for the championships. Saratoga options include the Grade 1 Fourstardave at a turf mile August 22 or the Woodward on dirt at a mile and one-quarter September 5 if thinking Classic. The Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 13 fits the Casse calendar if looking toward the BC Mile, as would Keeneland’s Grade 1 Shadwell Mile in early October back over the host track.
Honorable Mentions: Keeneland legend Rushing Fall won her fifth career local graded stakes in the July 11 Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, trailing only seven-time winner Wise Dan on the historic track’s all-time list. Rushing Fall ran down a game front-runner in Jolie Olympica and certainly made a viable MVP case. Art Collector threw his name squarely into Kentucky Derby contention with a dominant performance in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on July 11 at Keeneland. The Tommy Drury trainee cruised by 3-1/2 lengths over the filly Swiss Skydiver. Also at Keeneland on July 11, distaff sprint star Guarana battled to victory in the Grade 1 Madison over Mia Mishief, losing the lead in mid-stretch but gamely coming back on for the victory in 1:21.70 for 7 furlongs. And finally, Monomoy Girl did what she was supposed to do as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 2 Ruffian at Belmont on July 11, but don’t underestimate the significance of her first stakes bid since the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. That’s quite an accomplishment on the comeback trail after 18 months away.