04/18/2013 4:57PM

Short-lived sire War Pass is gone but not forgotten

John Engelhardt
Java’s War, the come-from-behind winner of the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 13, proves that War Pass is still leaving his mark on racing, even after his death.

Over the past decade, the Thoroughbred world has seen a number of successful sires die young. As detailed in the Feb. 9 issue of DRF Breeding, short-lived sires such as Saint Liam, Chester House, Lawyer Ron, and Dubai Millennium have made substantial contributions to the breed despite serving three seasons or less at stud.

If the victory by Java’s War in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 13 is any indication, we can add the name of his sire, War Pass, to that list of important, short-lived sires.

War Pass died Dec. 24, 2010, the day after returning to Lane’s End from his second shuttle season at Widden Stud in Australia. War Pass had earned the right to stand at such prestigious farms as Lane’s End and Widden through his meteoric racing career. Bred in Kentucky by Seth Hancock’s Cherry Valley Farm, War Pass was purchased by trainer Nick Zito on behalf of Robert LaPenta’s Whitehorse Stables for $180,000 at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale.

LaPenta routinely enters his yearling purchases in juvenile sales, but War Pass was withdrawn from the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of selected 2-year-olds the following March and put into training with Zito. He made his first start July 28, 2007, in a six-furlong maiden race at Saratoga and led all the way to win by a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths in 1:10.26.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Zito seldom goes directly from maiden races to stakes, so War Pass started next in a six-furlong optional claimer a month later at the Spa, winning by 5 1/2 lengths while again leading all the way. Clearly, War Pass was a high-class 2-year-old, and he proved it conclusively in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont, racing off to a 5 1/2-length lead before future Grade 1 winner Pyro closed the gap to 1 1/2 lengths at the wire.

War Pass was made the 2.20-1 favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Monmouth, and he turned in perhaps the most impressive performance of the day, striding to a seven-length lead before being eased to the wire 4 3/4 lengths in front of Pyro.

War Pass won the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, but questions remained about his ability to get a route of ground due to his pedigree and running style, and thus, his credentials as winter-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

War Pass was easily the best son of 1994 champion sprinter Cherokee Run. Despite that sprint title, Cherokee Run was not an easy horse to pigeonhole since he also won the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes and ran a very good second to champion Prairie Bayou in the 1993 Preakness Stakes.

Cherokee Run was rather more easily categorized as a sire, however. His second-best runner, 1999 champion 2-year-old filly Chilukki, also was a precocious type from a female line at least as stout as that of War Pass and who stayed a mile but not much farther. Cherokee Run sired a number of graded stakes winners up to 1 1/8 miles among his 52 stakes winners from 837 foals (6.2 percent), but none at longer distances.

War Pass’s dam, Vue, by Mr. Prospector, was a speedy filly who won three of her six starts at 3 and was third in both the six-furlong Wilma C. Kennedy Stakes and the one-mile Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park. Her first foal, Oath, by Known Fact, won the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes.

Vue, a half-sister to Louisiana Derby winner Country Light (by Majestic Light) and multiple stakes winner Packet (by Polish Navy), is a member of one of the great families in the American Stud Book, descending from the Stimulus mare Bourtai, her fourth dam.

War Pass did not get much of a chance to prove he could be the exception to the Cherokee Run rule at 3. He started off well enough, romping by 7 1/2 lengths in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream, but then was bumped at the start and stopped badly when he did not make the lead for the first time in his life in the Tampa Bay Derby.

That experiment in rating was enough for Zito, and he let War Pass roll in the Wood Memorial. The champion looked like his old self for 1 1/16 miles of the 1 1/8-mile race but allowed Tale of Ekati to get through on the rail and lost by a half-length.

War Pass exited the Wood with a fractured ankle and eventually retired to Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., at a fee of $30,000.

Java’s War is the second likely Kentucky Derby entrant to emerge from War Pass’s first crop, following Revolutionary (out of Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy), the winner of this year’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. War Pass’s first American crop also includes stakes winner Ore Pass, and his first Australian-conceived crop already has produced a promising juvenile in Canonbury Stakes winner Never Can Tell.

If Java’s War proves he can stay farther than his sire, his dam, Java, by Rainbow Quest, will get the credit, as she probably should.

Bred and owned by the late Fahd Salman’s Newgate Stud Co., Java won two of her seven starts, including a 1 1/4-mile optional claimer on Hollywood Park’s turf course in 2:01.94 in her final start.

That distance was well within the compass of Java’s full sister Fiji, who earned champion-turf-female honors in 1998, principally through her victory in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at that distance.

Their half-brother Capri, by Generous, preferred even longer distances, capturing the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly and Group 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes at about 1 1/2 miles.

Their dam, Island Jamboree, by Explodent, was a talented filly, winning five stakes and running second in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap. Island Jamboree’s dam, Careless Virgin, was a half-sister to another top stayer in Alydar’s son Cacoethes, who won the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 1 Turf Classic Handicap and the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at the same distance in England, in addition to running second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes and third in the Epsom Derby.

Cacoethes’s half-sister Fabulous Notion, by Somethingfabulous, never had the opportunity to run that far but won the Grade 1 Santa Susana and five other stakes, and produced Grade 1 winner Fabulously Fast, by Deputy Minister.

Another half-sister, Not So Careless, by Desert Wine, is the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Subordination, by Mt. Livermore.

Since Blushing Groom is the grandsire of Cherokee Run and the sire of Java’s War’s broodmare sire, Rainbow Quest, the Blue Grass winner is inbred 4x3 to that great sire for an overall inbreeding coefficient of 2.64 percent through the first six generations. Rainbow Quest, the winner of the 1985 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and a leading broodmare sire in Europe, is, of course, also a strong influence for stamina.

With his poor gate habits, come-from-the-clouds running style, and stout female line, Java’s War seems almost certain to be running faster than most of the field at the finish of the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Whether he is good enough to win it might depend as much on racing luck as talent.