War Dancer got the bob in a three-way photo finish July 13 at Colonial Downs, overpowering hard-running Charming Kitten and staving off the late-flying Jack Milton to preserve victory by a head in the $500,000 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) (VIDEO).
The sophomore son of War Front completed 1 1/4 miles on a good outer turf in 2:03.57 under jockey Alan Garcia at odds of 7-1, bringing home the victory for trainer Ken McPeek and Magdalena Racing.
Three wide between horses most of the opening mile, War Dancer steadily improved his position from sixth at the quarter pole to fifth at the half behind opening fractions set by Redwood Kitten. That one sailed off to a 1 1/2-length lead while posting splits of :24, :48.97, and 1:13.82 with 5-2 favorite Rydilluc in pursuit.
Fourth as a mile went in 1:38.58, War Dancer found his best stride late and took aim on the leaders from the outside as the field turned for home, while Charming Kitten was closing up the rail. Redwood Kitten faded and Charming Kitten found room to pass him inside while War Dancer did the same on the outside, as Jack Milton steadied briefly on the heels of the tiring leader before tipping outside and flying with a furious rush.
Those three hit the wire together with War Dancer between horses, just managing the victory while digging in stubbornly to last. Rydilluc, who had raced competitively to the quarter pole, faded sharply in the stretch to wind up in a dead-heat for eighth in a field of 10.
War Dancer returned $16.80, $7.40, and $4.40 while 3-1 second choice Charming Kitten brought $4.40 and $2.80 and 7-2 Jack Milton paid $3.80. Draw Two, Redwood Kitten, Fear the Kitten, Readyshakego were next. Rydilluc, in a draw with Gefest, and Bethel completed the order of finish.
War Dancer came off a runner-up finish two lengths behind Free World in the June 15 Centaur Stakes going one mile on the lawn at Indiana Downs. Prior to that race he was third behind Noble Tune and Admiral Kitten in his stakes debut, the May 3 American Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs. With the Virginia Derby win he improved his record from seven starts to 3-2-1, with earnings of $418,569.
Bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm and Stuart S. Janney III out of the Alydeed mare Deed I Do, War Dancer was purchased by McPeek for $220,000 from the 2011 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale when consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency. He was a $25,000 weanling purchase by B&B Stables when consigned to the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale by Claiborne Farm, agent.