Juvenile champion War Pass romps in seasonal debut.
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Juvenile champion War Pass romps in seasonal debut.
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Layoff Not a Problem For War Pass

The juvenile champion was impressive in his 3-year-old debut Feb. 24 at Gulfstream.

If there was any rust from his nearly four-month layoff, Robert LaPenta’s War Pass hid it well, as the juvenile champion sparkled in his 3-year-old debut, winning by 7 ½ length in a one-mile allowance tune-up Feb. 24 at Gulfstream Park.

Like his Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) victory Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park, War Pass, going off at odds of 1-20, never trailed. Breaking from post five, the Cherokee Runcolt shot to the lead under Cornelio Velasquez and made mincemeat out of his four overmatched rivals.

Velasquez was under a tight hold the whole way, as War Pass stopped the clock in 1:36.38 on a fast main track. He is now unbeaten – and virtually unchallenged – in five lifetime starts. Step 1 along his Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail is now complete.

“He’s a very happy horse,” Velasquez said. “He’s the best horse in the country right now. He’s better than last year, he galloped out really strong. He wanted to win today.”

It was the culmination of a terrific day for War Pass trainer Nick Zito, who about a half-hour earlier watched as another one of his talented 3-year-old colts, Cool Coal Man, won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream.

“You still have anxiety no matter how you look at it,” Zito said. “When horses haven’t run for a long time, there are injuries every day, so I know how grateful I am. He’s unbelievable. That’s what we wanted for him.

“Three weeks from now (Tampa Bay Derby, Mar. 15) it will be a little tougher. I was happy for the fans. I’m a fan myself. I’m grateful to Gulfstream Park for putting the race on. He broke like a rocket. It would have been nice if he had sat back, but as long as he keeps winning, I’m happy. He’s a special horse, he really is.” 

War Pass ran the opening quarter in :23.94, and was two lengths in front of Chadwell. Staying close to the rail, he extended his lead through a :46.72 half-mile. The bay colt ran six furlongs in 1:11.90 and was just beginning to find his stride.

War Pass, who paid $2.10 to win and place (there was no show betting), pulled away with every stride in the stretch, Velasquez never reaching for the whip. Web Gem ($2.20 to place), also trained by Zito, was second, 16 1/4 lengths in front of Chadwell.

Out of the Mr. Prospector mare Vue, War Pass was bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm. He has now earned $1,433,400 for LaPenta, who also owns Cool Coal Man.

(Chart, Equibase)