With his dominating 3 1/2-length allowance score going 1 1/16 miles March 15, War Academy is ready to join the Derby party, according to both Bob Baffert and Mike Smith.
In only his third start while making his first try around two turns, 9-10 favorite War Academy was 5 1/2 lengths behind stablemate Manando with three eighths of a mile to run but easily reeled him in, winning with his ears pricked for Smith in 1:43.42.
"He might be my [Derby] horse Bob," said Smith to his Hall of Fame counterpart Baffert following War Academy's win in the second race over four other 3-year-olds. "What I like so much about him is there's so much room to improve. He was well, well within himself today."
"I'm going to run him in a big prep, he'll hit one of the big preps," said Baffert in reference to the son of Giant's Causeway. "I don't know where yet, but it'll be a hundred [qualifying] points whatever it is. We're goin' for the bonus round…Mike's always been real high on this horse."
Baffert already has a host of Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including Rebel Stakes favorite Super Ninety Nine, Flashback, Den's Legacy, Code West, and Shakin It Up.
Owned by Michael Tabor, John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, War Academy broke from post 4 and rated kindly throughout while racing in second behind Manando. After tracking fractions of :24.41, :48.64, and 1:11.89, the dark bay or brown colt was rolling on the far turn when asked for a bit from Smith and whittled the gap coming into the stretch.
War Academy swept past the leader at the sixteenth pole and was geared down in the final strides after quickly opening up a daylight advantage. He paid $3.80, $2.20 and $2.10.
Bred in Kentucky by Doug Branham, War Academy is out of multiple stakes-placed Cabbage Key, by A.P. Indy. He was a $450,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase.
War Academy was fourth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes Feb. 17. He was a clear first-out maiden special weight winner going 6 1/2 furlongs Nov. 9 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Manando, the 7-5 second choice, held on for second with Martin Garcia aboard. He finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of Brokered, with Kid Dreams and One Firm Cat following.