11/28/2016 12:50PM

Sparkman: War Front scoring at home and abroad

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Benoit & Associates
Journey Home, by War Front, wins the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar.

The parallels between the stud careers of War Front and his sire, Danzig, are undeniable. Both went to stud with little fanfare and almost non-existent expectations. Both sired multiple Grade 1 winners in their first crops (Danzig three and War Front four from a larger crop), first crops that included stakes winners on both dirt and turf. And both horses eventually came to be regarded primarily as turf sires, especially effective in Europe.

The 2016 season, though, has been a pointed reminder that War Front is a pretty darned effective sire in the United States as well, most recently exemplified by the victory of his daughter Journey Home in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar last weekend. Journey Home is War Front’s 22nd stakes winner worldwide this year, and 13 of those 22 earned their stakes brackets in North America, led by Grade 1 winner Avenge, who captured the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Bred and raced by Joseph Allen, War Front was a good, but not great, racehorse who won the 1 1/16-mile Princelet Stakes around one turn at Belmont Park as a 3-year-old, but showed his best form over sprint distances as a 4-year-old. Trained by Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, War Front ran seven times as a 4-year-old in 2005 and was first or second in the first six of those races. Unfortunately for his reputation, he won only one of those six, running second to Gaff in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, second to Universal Form in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister, second to Silver Train in the Grade 2 Tom Fool, second to Pomeroy in the Grade 1 Forego, and second to Henny Hughes in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

The one race he won was the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt over six furlongs at Saratoga. Third early, he moved to the lead from the outside on the turn and drew away to beat Judiths Wild Rush by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:10.21. That left War Front as a 15-1 longshot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and he ran like one, finishing seventh beaten about seven lengths by the longshot winner Thor’s Echo.

Like his sire, it was clear War Front was a fast horse, but he had endured a far longer racing career than his sire and had failed to prove himself as a top-class horse. Danzig had never had that opportunity. Although War Front did not sire a Breeders’ Cup winner in his first crop like his sire, Soldat (out of Le Relais, by Coronado’s Quest) showed his promise by winning the Grade 3 With Anticipation on turf at 2 and Tensas Punch (Indy Punch, by Pulling Punches) won stakes at Delta Downs. The War Fronts really began to come into their own as 3-year-olds in 2011.

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Soldat won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth early in the season on dirt, and by the end of that year, The Factor (Greyciousness, by Miswaki) had won the Grade 1 Malibu and Pat O’Brien on synthetic and Summer Soiree (Mazel Tov, by Mazel Trick) had captured the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on turf.

War Front’s stud career really took off when his second-crop son Declaration of War (Tempo West, by Rahy) developed into the best older horse in Europe as a 4-year-old in 2013, winning the Group 1 Juddmonte International and Queen Anne Stakes and running a gallant, narrow third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has since gone from strength to strength with European champion 2-year-old Air Force Blue (Chatham, by Maria’s Mon) and Hong Kong champion Lines of Battle (Black Speck, by Arch) among his 57 stakes winners from 483 foals of racing age (11.8 percent).

Journey Home was bred by William S. Farish and the Kilroy Thoroughbred Partnership and purchased for $200,000 by Sam-Son Farm at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. She is the sixth foal, fifth winner, and first stakes winner out of Soul Search, a high-class A.P. Indy mare who finished second to Asi Siempre in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes and third in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign but neglected to include a stakes win among her four wins in 21 lifetime starts.

Soul Search had every right to be a good racemare on pedigree. She is a half-sister to stakes winner Reform Act, by Lemon Drop Kid, and her dam, Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony, is full sister to champion Pleasant Stage and graded winners Colonial Play and Stage Colony from the great family founded by Buckland Farm’s foundation mare Patelin, tail-female ancestress of Grade 1/Group 1 winners A Phenomenon, Seattle Meteor, Marsh Side, Changeintheweather, Roanoke, Pillaster, Class Play, and Reenact.