The people who run Claiborne Farm expect this to be another case of like father, like son. The large Kentucky breeding farm purchased the breeding rights to War of Will, who will join his sire, War Front, upon his retirement.

War of Will Off to Stud
War of Will’s ‘WOW’ factor was on display en route to the 2019 Preakness Stakes title. He will join his sire, War Front, at stud next year. (Image: Coady Photography)

That gives Claiborne a true rarity that will appeal greatly to breeders. War of Will won Grade 1 races on both dirt and turf, making him a pedigree superstar-in-waiting in the breeding shed.

“War of Will has an outstanding pedigree, and combined with his race record, he should be very appealing to breeders. He’s a classic winner on dirt at 3, and a grade 1 winner on turf at 4, which places him in rare company,” Claiborne Farm’s Walker Hancock said in a statement. “War Front is one of the most successful sires of his generation, and there is no doubt he is becoming a sire of sires. We believe War of Will has the capability to follow his father’s success.”

The purchase came nearly three weeks after War of Will captured the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland. The victory in the turf mile not only gave the 4-year-old his second Grade 1 win – following the 2019 Preakness Stakes – but increased his career earnings to $1.796 million.

Dual-Surface Grade 1 Winners Are Breeding Gold Mines

That, however, pales in comparison to what it will do to War of Will’s long-term breeding potential. Not to mention his stud fee, which Claiborne said it will announce after November’s Breeders’ Cup. Trainer Mark Casse said that’s likely War of Will’s last racing stop, meaning he won’t have far to travel from Keeneland to Claiborne.

“I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to be around a lot of good horses, but I have to put War of Will right there at the top,” Casse said. “He has a special place in my heart. He’s a class act. There’s a reason we call him ‘WOW.’ It’s not just because of his initials. Everything he does is a wow. The way he looks. The way he trains, and his pedigree. I’m excited to see him go to Claiborne and follow in his father’s footsteps. Our plan is to point toward the Woodbine Mile next, and then hopefully the Breeders’ Cup.”

War of Will claims five victories in 16 starts, four of those coming in graded stakes. Two of those came back-to-back during his 2019 Kentucky Derby Trail excursion. He won the Grade 3 Lecomte, then beat eventual Kentucky Derby champion Country House a month later in the Grade 2 Risen Star.

War of Will Conquered the Preakness

After finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby as the primary victim of Maximum Security’s interference, War of Will went to Pimlico and turned in the perfect trip. He won the Preakness in dynamic fashion at 6/1. That gave Casse his first Triple Crown race title, and vaulted War of Will toward the front rank of 3-year-olds.

Where he struggled. After finishing ninth at the Belmont Stakes, War of Will hit the board only once in his next four races: a third at the Pennsylvania Derby. He finished a poor ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park, closing out 2019. Casse gave him the next 6 ½ months off, then watched War of Will finish sixth in the Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita in late May. Race stewards demoted him from fifth when he crowded Next Shares coming out of the gate.

What happened next defined War of Will’s career. Just when you write him off, the “WOW” factor Casse talks about reminds you why you shouldn’t. This example: the Maker’s Mark, where he went off at a forgotten 6/1 and beat favorites Raging Bull and Without Parole – both Grade 1 turf winners.

It will define his stud value. That said, his sire left him big hooves to fill. War Front is one of the most prolifically successful sires in the world. His progeny include 21 group/grade 1 winners and 13 million-dollar earners, including War of Will and Declaration of War. War Front’s sons have sired numerous graded stakes winners, such as Decorated Invader, The Factor, Summer Front, and Ete Indien.