War Dancer Prevails in Louisville Thriller
by Myra Lewyn
Date Posted: 5/24/2014 7:45:34 PM
Last Updated: 5/25/2014 1:20:48 PM

War Dancer (right) outfights Suntracer to win the Louisville Handicap.
Photo: Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs
After an intense duel down the Churchill Downs stretch, odds-on favorite War Dancer thrust his head in front of Suntracer at the finish line and won the $110,200 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) May 24 (VIDEO).
 
The 4-5 choice for the 1 1/2-mile turf test, War Dancer shook off pacesetter Tattenham with a quarter-mile to run, taking a short-lived lead under Alan Garcia. Suntracer, angled four wide into the lane, stuck his head in front for Robby Albarado with three-sixteenths to remaining. 
 
A determined War Dancer was keen for the challenge, dug in, and battled that opponent stride for stride before a final lunge in the last step propelled him to the victory.  
 
War Dancer covered the distance on the Matt Winn Turf Course in 2:28.23 on firm ground and snapped a five-race winless stretch dating from his head victory in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) last July. 
 
Trained by Ken McPeek for Diamond M Stable, War Dancer earned favoritism for the Louisville Handicap off his runner-up finish last month at Keeneland in the 1 1/2-mile Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT). He was leading in the final furlong in that April 25 tilt but was collared in closing stages by Unitarian
 
McPeek enjoyed a third win the Louisville Handicap, following a victory in 2007 with Drilling for Oil and in 2002 with Pisces, who finished in a dead heat.
 
Tracking pacesetter Tattenham and Star Channel through fractions of :25.70 and :51.67 for a half-mile in this year's edition, War Dancer drove between the two front-runners from third and engaged Tattenham on the backstretch and around the turn. The winner shook off Tattenham but tenacious Suntracer, seeking his first win since October 2012, made him work hard for the victory. 
 
Four-year-old War Dancer, a son of Claiborne Farm's hot sire War Front   out of the winning Alydeed mare Deed I Do, improved his record to 4-3-1 from 13 career starts. He boosted his lifetime earnings to $541,717.
 
McPeek bought War Dancer for $220,000 from the Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency consignment at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. BB Sales initially bought him as a weanling for $25,000 at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale from consignor Claiborne Farm. Claiborne offered the Kentucky-bred on behalf of his breeders, longtime client Stuart Janney III and Claiborne owner Seth Hancock's Cherry Valley Farm. 
 
War Dancer, under high weight of 118 pounds, paid $3.80, $2.40 and $2.20 and Suntracer, toting 117, returned $5.80 and $3.40. Moro Tap finished three lengths back in third under Rosie Napravnik, who won five races earlier on the card. He brought $3.60 to show. 
 
Forte Dei Marmi, Star Channel, Perfect Timber, Tattenham and Formidable Heart completed the order of finish. 


Copyright © 2014 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

SUBSCRIBE to The Blood-Horse magazine TODAY!