Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: Casse’s cast of contenders grows

By Jonathan Lintner

Before trainer Mark Casse saddled War of Will last Saturday for the most impressive 2019 Kentucky Derby prep win of the new year, he’d already set himself up for a big week on the trail.

Three days later, a new acquisition for trainer Gary Barber, the stakes winner Our Braintrust, posted his first work at the Casse Training Center in Florida, breezing a half mile in 49 seconds.

“I really like him,” Casse recently told the NYRA Press Office. “I’ve trained a few Freuds, and some of them tend to be on the more compact side, but with this horse he has a little more length to him. So far, he’s been a wonderful horse to be around.”

Formerly trained and co-owned by Cathal Lynch, broke his maiden on debut and won Belmont Park’s Tremont Stakes at second asking. He has finished a runner-up in both starts since, including a second to Mind Control in the Jan. 1 Jerome Stakes.

“We thought his race in the Jerome was very good, and we’re always looking for prospects,” Casse said.

With that one-turn mile so far Our Braintrust’s longest race, Casse’s looking to stretch out the former $25,000 yearling purchase in the Feb. 2 Withers Stakes (G3) at 1 1/8 miles.

“You never know until you try, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some reservations about it,” said Casse, who also plans to send Woodbine stakes winner Sir Winston in the Withers. “But we’re going to give it a try and hope for the best.”

As for War of Will, the four-length Lecomte Stakes (G3) victor, “He’s doing extremely well,” Casse added. “I can’t say enough great things about him, and I think he’s an absolute superstar.”

War of Will has remained at Fair Grounds since last weekend’s win and will point to the Feb. 16 Risen Star (G2). After opening his career with four straight defeats on turf — while running twice in Grade 1 company — the son of War Front has gone 2-for-2 on the main track.

“I think he’s a better dirt horse, although with a better trip in the Breeders’ Cup he could have been a Breeders’ Cup winner,” Casse said. “But it was probably a blessing because had he won the Breeders’ Cup, it would have been much tougher to try him on the dirt. Sometimes things happen for a reason.”

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