07/13/2013 9:05PM

Colonial: Road warrior War Dancer takes Virginia Derby

War Dancer, with Alan Garcia, comes between Jack Milton (left) and Charming Kitten to narrowly prevail in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby.

War Dancer doesn’t seem to mind traveling. Since early March, he has raced at five different tracks in Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, and finally Virginia, and has run well every time.

Saturday night at Colonial Downs, War Dancer ($16.80) displayed grit and determination under regular rider Alan Garcia to prevail in a three-horse photo in the Grade 2, $500,000 Virginia Derby.

In a difficult spot between Charming Kitten with Joel Rosario aboard on the rail and Jack Milton, ridden by John Velazquez, to his outside, War Dancer got the job done by a head. Racing beyond 1 1/8 miles for the first time, War Dancer completed 1 1/4 miles on a turf course rated good in 2:03.57. Charming Kitten won a head bob with Jack Milton for second.

“The horse did everything he needed to do to win,” said Garcia, who won two stakes on the closing-night card.

“Alan did a great job,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who teamed up with jockey Ben Creed to win the $50,000 Kitten’s Joy two races earlier on the program. “We always felt this was a real nice horse.”

In two previous stakes tries, War Dancer had to settle for small slices of the purse, finishing third, 2 1/4 lengths behind winner Noble Tune in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs and second, beaten two lengths by Free World, in the $207,000 Centaur at Indiana Downs a month ago.

The Wesley Ward-trained Redwood Kitten, winner of the James Murphy at Pimlico in May, set a pressured pace over rain-softened ground of 48.97 seconds for a half-mile and 1:13.82 for six furlongs. Four horses had a shot at winning at the eighth pole with Redwood Kitten still clinging to a half-length advantage. He faded in deep stretch, however, leaving three horses across the track before War Dancer emerged the victor.

Rydilluc, who came into the race 4 for 4 on turf, including the Grade 3 Palm Beach and last month's $460,000 Penn Mile,  finished in a dead heat for eighth at 5-2 after racing close up in second for the first mile.

A son of War Front owned by Magdalena Racing, War Dancer is now 3 for 7 lifetime. McPeek said he would like to target this fall’s Breeders’ Cup as a long-term goal.

“There are a lot of great options,” McPeek said when asked what might be next for War Dancer. “I’d like to try and make the Breeders’ Cup in some fashion. You never know how 3-year-olds are going to be able to compete with older horses at that time of year.”


edb More than 1 year ago
Plenty of horse left on those three horses. Nice race. If it was 1 1/2 race, it still would have been a bang-bang finish. Nice tri.
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
There needs to be a 1 1/2 mile turf graded stakes race for three year olds in America. There currently are none.
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
Yes, there is. It is in September at Churchill Downs. It is called: The Kentucky Turf Derby. Can't wait!!!
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Good field and a great race
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
the grass bloodlines of this horse are EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE!
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Great race @ a mile/quarter...Wish we could more like it on the turf...Hope these three hook up again soon...
hghvw21 . More than 1 year ago
Jack Milton was the best horse in this race, got blocked and shut off a multiple times, had best stride late. I think he would have won by a half length or more if he was positioned better. Didnt cash- didnt bet- spent my money on hay for a few broke down ex racehorses
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
You must be kidding. Watch the replay and read the chart. Charming Kitten was cut off at the 1/8th pole by his stablemate.
Vince More than 1 year ago
Charming Kitten had a dream run up the rail ( watch the race) Jack Milton got steadied mid stretch and angled out..
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
I did watch the race and being nearly sawed off at the 1/8 pole and losing by a head is not a dream trip. I saw it and the chart caller obviously saw it as he mentioned it. You should take your own advice and watch the race.
jttf More than 1 year ago
kudos to mcpeek for taking his time with this horse. did not run on lasix until march of his 3 year old season. this horse improving big time.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
gave em out to all 7-1 great price. I cashed.
hghvw21 . More than 1 year ago
Please tell us when you lose as well.