06/29/2008 11:00PM

War Ruler out to build on his last


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Carl Nafzger is 0 for 8 at the Churchill Downs spring meet and will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in August, two facts that contradict each other.

"No, we don't tease him about being on the duck," Ian Wilkes said with a laugh. "We're letting that one go."

The truth is that Nafzger is having an excellent meet because of the statistics that Wilkes has compiled. The Nafzger and Wilkes horses basically are interchangeable, with Nafzger, at age 66, gradually phasing himself out of the game, while Wilkes has assumed a more prominent role within their combined stables.

Going into the final week of the spring meet, Wilkes has had 48 horses run in his name, resulting in 14 wins, 12 seconds, and 7 thirds, good for a 29 percent win rate and a 69 percent in-the-money rate. On Wednesday, Wilkes will be looking to bump up those lofty numbers when he saddles War Ruler for the featured eighth of nine races, a seven-furlong entry-level allowance with a $43,100 purse.

"It's been a really good meet for us," said Wilkes, who soon will head to Saratoga with about 12 horses. "We've got good owners, good horses, and good help. We're at a point that Carl has worked his whole life to get to."

War Ruler will be ridden by Julien Leparoux when breaking from post 2 in a field of 10 3-year-olds. A Silver Deputy gelding owned by Dr. Hiram Polk and Dr. David Richardson, War Ruler ran easily the best race of his career on May 31 when earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest last-out Beyer in the field.

"We put blinkers on him for that race," Wilkes said. "He got a real confidence-booster, which I think he needed. He's got quite a bit of potential."

War Ruler is one of an inordinate number of viable contenders in a well-matched feature. Five other entrants - Sinister, Coach Ryan, Niobrara, Knock Out Cat, and Siena Canyon - also prevailed versus maidens in their latest starts, while E Z Phone Home and Fit for a Fight already have come close when trying to make it through this one-other-than condition.

Dr. Nick and The Darp round out the field.

First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern. There is a carryover of $2,873 in the pick six.