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War Monger cruises to impressive win in the Sunshine Millions Turf.
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War Monger Fights to Turf Victory

The 4-year-old colt comes from off the pace to win the Sunshine Millions Turf.

Peter Vegso homebred War Monger came from well off the pace, moved into contention around the final turn, and caught pacesetter Lucky J.H. in mid-stretch en route to a 1 1/4-length victory in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park.

A 4-year-old colt by War Chant, War Monger has now won three of his last four starts. He entered off a 1 ½-length win in the Oct. 24 Rutgers Handicap at Monmouth Park. Going off as the 9-5 favorite in the Turf, War Monger completed the 1 1/8-mile event in 1:46.32 over a firm turf with Kent Desormeaux aboard.

Soldier’s Dancer made a strong late move under Rene Douglas to get second by a length over Lucky J.H. French Vintage was fourth in the field of 10.

For much of the way, it looked as though Aaron Gryder and Lucky J.H. were going to steal the Turf, as the 6-year-old horse took the early lead and kept it until mid-stretch. Lucky J.H. posted fractions of :24.47, :48.46 and 1:11.35. Epic Power and Add Heat were also in contention through six furlongs, while War Monger was rating nicely off the pace in fifth.

Desormeaux eased War Monger to the outside coming out of the far turn and was within 2 ½ lengths of the lead at the top of the stretch. War Monger made the front at the sixteenth pole and had more than enough to hit the wire in front.

“When he switches off (leads), he’s got a nice punch,” said trainer Bill Mott, who also won a pair of Sunshine Millions races at Santa Anita. “He ran well today. Is he better at a flat mile? I can’t tell you. He didn’t have a good trip. It’s amazing, when those jocks have a lot of horse, they are able to find room. I have nothing picked out (next). ”

Said Desormeaux: “Bill’s done a great job training this horse. When I first rode him, I couldn’t get him within two lengths of another horse. To have him come through horses like he did today really impressed me.

“He’s come a long way.  He’s a very talented animal. He’s really matured. He held his ground and didn’t let the other horses push him out of the way. I don’t know that the pace had anything to do with his win, rather his ability to relax. He won the race at the half-mile pole.”

War Monger, who was bred in Florida and is out of the Half a Year mare Carnival Delight, paid $5.80, $3.80, and $3. The $2 exacta (1-7) was worth $37.20, while the $1 trifecta (1-7-8) returned $353.

War Monger is 4-1-0 from seven lifetime starts and has earned $430,976 for Vegso.

Add Heat was fifth, followed by Icy Atlantic, Birdbirdistheword, Pickapocket, Presious Passion, Epic Power, and Summer Book.

(Chart, Equibase)