03/18/2013 2:00PM

Kentucky Derby Under the Radar: War Academy

Benoit & Associates
War Academy will step up to a major Kentucky Derby prep race after an impressive win at Santa Anita last Friday.

War Academy is headed to a major Kentucky Derby prep race following an authoritative entry-level, optional-claiming victory at Santa Anita on March 15.

Trained by Bob Baffert, War Academy raced around two turns for the first time and handled the additional distance without any fuss. Breaking from post 4 in the five-horse event at 1 1/16 miles, War Academy tracked the early leader, uncoupled stablemate Manando, through fractions of 24.41 and 48.64 seconds.

Manando attempted to bottom out the field with a third quarter of 23.25 and opened up a sizable advantage, but War Academy gradually closed the gap before powering past Manando inside the eighth pole. Under a confident Mike Smith, War Academy completed the distance in 1:43.42 while clear by 3 1/2 lengths over Manando, a colt who finished third behind Goldencents in the Grade 2 Sham Stakes on Jan. 5.

It was another 3 3/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Brokered, previously second in the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby. For his effort, War Academy was rewarded with a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

Bred by Doug Branham, War Academy was foaled in Kentucky on Feb. 12, 2010. He is by Giant’s Causeway, an iron racehorse who was the leading North American sire by earnings in 2009 and 2010. Giant’s Causeway excelled on turf in Europe, winning 9 of 12 races overseas at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 5/16 miles.

Between June 20 and Sept. 9, 2000, Giant’s Causeway won five consecutive Group 1 races, all by less than a length. In his lone start on dirt, the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, Giant’s Causeway ran a gallant second to Tiznow, failing by a neck despite earning a 116 Beyer.

Not surprisingly, Giant’s Causeway has imparted stamina to his progeny. Among them are North American Grade 1 route winners Giant Oak, Heatseeker, Swift Temper, Creative Cause, First Samurai, Carriage Trail, Eskendereya, and Frost Giant.

War Academy’s dam, the A.P. Indy mare Cabbage Key, was multiple stakes-placed routing on grass. She is a half-sister to stakes-winning turf router Mystic and stakes-placed turf router Magical Affair.

The winning second dam, Mayville’s Magic (by Gone West), is a half-sister to European champion juvenile filly Gay Gallanta and Group 2 turf winner Sportsworld. The third dam, Gallanta (by Nureyev), was Group 1-placed on turf in France and is a half-sister to French champion Gay Mecene.

War Academy was purchased by Michael Tabor, John Magnier, and Derrick Smith for $450,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling auction. Sent to Baffert, War Academy impressed clockers with his morning trials and was sent away as the 11-10 favorite for his career debut, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight over the Betfair Hollywood Park Cushion Track on Nov. 9.

That day, War Academy tracked the leaders from the outside before overtaking his uncoupled stablemate, Denzel, in the stretch. The third-place finisher, Treasury Bill, returned to graduate in his next appearance with an 80 Beyer.

War Academy was being pointed to the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity for his second start but took ill and missed some training time. Baffert gave the colt the rest of the year off, and he returned in the seven-furlong, Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 17. War Academy received an excellent education in the San Vicente as he raced between rivals from stalking range.

Although he flattened out a bit in the final furlong, War Academy may not have been fully cranked for his first race in more than three months.

More distance was expected to aid War Academy, and he didn’t disappoint in the recent breakout performance. Although his pedigree tilts toward grass, War Academy definitively answered the dirt question in resounding and fast fashion at Santa Anita.

War Academy will get the litmus test in his next start and needs to run very well in that major prep race if he is to accrue enough points to reach the Kentucky Derby. Baffert, as usual, seems loaded with quality 3-year-olds, but War Academy might be peaking at just the right time. Still lightly raced, it’s possible that he has even more upside, and his running style – a nice blend of tactical speed and closing ability – is appealing.

Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
The first letter in the Kentucky Derby winner's name is "V"
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
You don"t start to spell REVOLUTIONARY with a V Jim. It starts with an R, At least we got the same Trainer right. Good Luck !
Mark. More than 1 year ago
Baffert Rules. D Wayne is my underdog threat.
Arnold Maurer More than 1 year ago
The Ox. nor WA will win the KY D. Still thinking the winner comes out of Calif. this year. Bring on the others.
Sam Hiscox More than 1 year ago
i like that exata in the futures
Sy Bonem More than 1 year ago
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Hey Sy, Me and a whole bunch of trainers out there would absolutely KILL, I repeat KILL to have BB's "last hope". You must be living real nice. Must be nice! :-))
John More than 1 year ago
I have a feeling Smith will take this colt over Oxbox, not so much the better of the two, but Baffert gives Smith alot of quality rides and you dont want to go home and shoot yourself in the foot ! I have a feeling, just a feeling, that Derby day, they will be asking Mike" what made you choose War Academy over Oxbow, and now winning the Derby " Ill telll you what though, Governor Charlie was extremely impressive in both his races, big kick in a sprint, then tacticle speed and a big finish again .........watch out !
Sam Hiscox More than 1 year ago
I'd like to see court back on
Kermit Pleasant More than 1 year ago
War academy the new Painter!
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
My heart says go to oxbow my man mike!
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
Com 'on he beat a horse who ran last at Golden Gate after having a 6 length lead.. One race in March and the Derby is in April??? ...Good way to send the horse to the farm...He's not a derby contender and Baffert knows it...He needs alot more seasoning...He might have HUGE potencial but you don't go to the Derby with this horse now..... I am surprised Baffert is stepping him up to the plate so Quickly....If this is my horse .. No Way...Horse comes first..Aspirations second
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
Geee Lenny HOW many grade ones have you won??? Baffert knows how to train a horse in the morning his horses are always ready.
B More than 1 year ago
It's too soon to tell just what the quality of this horse may be. He needs to prove he can win a major race.
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
count on it
Albert More than 1 year ago
Wow, War Academy won a slow race over a colt who came in third to Goldencents, who is a distance challenged horse himself. Now let me see, that makes him maybe a little behind Goldencents, but he can run late. Yup, that's a dark horse alright. Tell me Dan Illman, how did you get this feature assigned to you? The 'under the radar' category? I'll give you a tip: Baffert doesn't have a legitimate Derby contender, no matter how much they soup up the surface at SA; no matter how many he ships out of town looking for easy spots. Look elsewhere.
Mitch McMahon More than 1 year ago
It's called under the radar. This means he is an unknown entity. Unlike a righteous, sarcastic, vindictive commenter, which is a well known entity which the drf readership seems to have an abundance.
Wonderagain More than 1 year ago
This is why Dan got this feature (it was probably Dan's idea for this annual DRF feature anyway): “He might be my (Derby) horse Bob,” said Smith to Baffert following War Academy’s win in Friday’s second race. “What I like so much about him is there’s sooo much room to improve. He was well, well within himself today.” “I’m going to run him in a big prep, he’ll hit one of the big preps,” said Baffert. “I don’t know where yet, but it’ll be a hundred (qualifying) points whatever it is. We’re goin’ for the bonus round…Mike’s always been real high on this horse.” Thanks for pointing him out. Hadn't heard of him until I read Dan's piece and conveniently watched video of his alw race.
mdavis8357 More than 1 year ago
Albert you know nothing. Dummy up.
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
albert , you really shouldnt be playing in this game. watch this horse in the paddock .watch his demeanor He never turned a hair he walked right up to the gate like a seasoned old timer and came out like a tiger. Smith said shut down and he did he said go and he did.You will eat your words when he destroys his field in his next 100 point race. Baffert love him hate him he knows what hes doing and proves it every year he is simply Hall of Fame and continues to prove it!!!!