By Dick Downey
The Great War, runaway winner of the 96ROCK Stakes four weeks ago, is expected to be heavily favored in his second career effort at two turns, the 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park on Saturday. But the water is getting deeper.
The Great War represents the first attempt by Ireland's Coolmore connections to stable a horse in the U. S. for a run at qualifying for the Kentucky Derby. He's favored on the morning line at even money.
Trained by Wesley Ward, the son of War Front will be looking at a tougher Turfway field this time. For example, Todd Pletcher sends in Royal Son, who adds blinkers and who recently breezed on turf at Palm Beach Downs after finishing up the track in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.
Other prominent connections include Graham Motion, who ships in Ontario-bred Midnight Trace. By Scat Daddy, Midnight Trace was last seen finishing an out-kicked third in a turf allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs. He broke his maiden at first asking a month earlier going a mile on turf at Tampa. Motion is also bringing in Mini Cosmo from Fair Hill Training Center. Two races back, he was sixth in the Jerome Stakes, and last time out he finished fifth in the Frank Whiteley Jr Stakes at Laurel.
Mike Maker, who finished second in the 96ROCK Stakes with Two Step Temper, brings in Task Force Glory and Firespike from South Florida. Task Force Glory, a son of Badge of Silver, has a win and four places from six starts, all at two turns, and makes his stakes debut. Most recently, Indianaughty beat Task Force Glory by a head in a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 14. Firespike is by Flower Alley and won the OBS Championship Stakes on synthetic at the Battaglia distance in his most recent start.
Maker also entered the locally based Pepper Roani, who adds blinkers.
Meanwhile, The Great War carries the best credentials into the race, a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Eleven were entered in the Battaglia Memorial, but Bordini has defected, leaving 10. It's carded as race 6 with post time of 8:40 ET.