Thursday, April 25, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Java's War

Java's War is a cherished Thoroughbred, as he is among one of just a limited amount of crops sired by champion War Pass, who tragically died at the age of five. In fact, Java’s War was his first winner, winning a maiden special weight over Ellis Park’s turf course last July. Since then, he has proven to be one of the late sire’s best progeny, alongside fellow Derby contender Revolutionary.

Prior to becoming War Pass’ initial offspring to capture a race, Java’s War was fifth in a five-furlong turf maiden special weight at Churchill Downs. The added three-eighths of a mile in his following start were to the colt’s benefit, allowing the bay colt to kick clear to a 1 ¾-length triumph.

Sent to Louisiana for his stakes debut, the Sunday Silence Stakes over Louisiana Downs’ turf course, Java’s War faced a tough opponent in the highly-touted
Brown Almighty, who was coming off an easy win in the Sunny’s Halo Stakes, contested over the same grass oval. Away rather slowly from the gate – which would become his trademark –, Java’s War progressively gained ground on the frontrunners with a rail-skimming trip. By the time the field had commenced their run into the far turn, Java’s War had upgraded to a position among the first half of the field. He swung wide as the two-year-olds turned for home, using powerful strides to close in on Brown Almighty, surging past that rival to score by a neck.

Java’s War made his first start away from the turf on a rather similar surface – the Polytrack at Keeneland – in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) in his subsequent race. Rating off the pace between horses, Java’s War found himself behind a barrier of horses rounding the far turn but, when angled to the outside, began to close in on the leader. However, with a furlong of the race remaining, the rivals to both sides of him – Pataky Kid and Dynamic Sky – drifted toward him, squeezing him and thus harming his momentum. But Java’s War managed to finish third, bested by just 1 ¾ lengths.

Transferring to the dirt for his juvenile finale, Java’s War took on twelve rivals in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs. The race was essentially over for the colt from the beginning, when he broke slowly from the rail post, ahead of only one rival as the field entered the first bend. He improved his position down the backstretch, closing the gap between himself and his rivals as he raced on the outside. Remaining very wide around the far turn and down the lane, Java’s War flattened out in the homestretch, crossing the wire sixth.

The Kenny McPeek trainee made his three-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII), competing against the highly regarded, undefeated
Verrazano. Away from the gate very snaillike yet again, Java’s War was the trailer by an abundance of lengths as the field headed into the clubhouse turn. Although he appeared to have no chance down the backstretch as he lagged behind by double-digit lengths, Java’s War made up remarkable ground on the rest of the field, passing all but three horses by the middle of the final curve.

Going wide around the far turn, the colt set his sights on the drawing-away Verrazano, effortlessly gaining ground on him despite running greenly. Although Verrazano was an easy winner of the race, the rally Java’s War had made was breathtaking, as he had made up a plethora of lengths within a short amount of time. His final quarter-mile of 25.02 seconds was the third-fastest final two furlongs of any Derby prep of the season recorded by Trakus.

Java’s War’s final prep for the Derby resulted in a return to Keeneland’s Polytrack for the Blue Grass Stakes (GI). The colt again left the gate very sluggishly, hesitating and thus being left several strides behind his thirteen competitors. Again double-digit lengths behind the leaders, Java’s War seemed hopelessly beaten early on down the backstretch, racing several lengths off even the nearest adversary. After a half-mile, the colt finally began to grow closer to the rest of the field and at about the three-eighths pole, he kicked into gear, passing his closest rivals.

Maneuvered to the outside by Julien Leparoux, Java’s War raced incredibly wide as the field turned for home. But this did not deter his impressive rally; powerfully, the bay grew closer to the front, passing multiple rivals as he determinedly chased the frontrunners. Achieving what seemed to be the impossible, Java’s War got up in time, overtaking
Palace Malice by a neck to take the winner’s purse of $450,000.

Java’s War had traveled more ground than the majority of his rivals in the Blue Grass and his final two furlongs of 24.01 was the fastest of any last quarter-mile recorded by Trakus during the 2013 Derby prep season.

Java's War's pedigree

Java’s War’s pedigree should assist him in traveling a route of ground over dirt. The colt’s sire – the late, undefeated champion juvenile War Pass – won up to a mile and one-sixteenth but came within a half-length of winning at nine furlongs. War Pass was a result of the mating between Cherokee Run, a champion sprinter who produced nearly fifty black-type winners, and a black-type-placed Mr. Prospector mare, Vue. Though this side of Java’s War’s pedigree implies that he is limited to short distances, the bottom side of the colt's pedigree provides much greater distance implications.

Out of the British-bred Java, a mare who won up to ten furlongs, Java's War is a half-brother to Coffee Bar, a stakes-placed runner at nine furlongs that won up to a mile and a sixteenth. Java's sire is Rainbow Quest, a European champion that proved brilliant over long distances, winning many prestigious races over a route of ground, including the 2,400-meter (approximately 1 1/2 miles) Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. At stud, Rainbow Quest was outstanding, producing more than 100 stakes winners - many of which won at the group level. He sired a wealth of grade/group one winners that were victorious at ten furlongs or beyond, including Colour Vision, Croco Rouge, High and Low, Millenary, Nedawi, Quest for Fame, Rainbow Dancer, Raintrap, Saumarez, Spectrum, Sunshack, and Urgent Request. Rainbow Quest has also proven to be a spectacular broodmare sire, producing the dams of the group one-winning distance horses Look Here and Spanish Moon – both of which won at twelve furlongs.

Java’s War’s granddam, Island Jamboree, was a multiple stakes-winning miler that was also graded stakes-placed. A daughter of Explodent, Island Jamboree was a terrific broodmare, foaling the multiple grade one-winning champion turf female Fiji, who won at ten furlongs twice, and the multiple group stakes-winning Capri, victorious at 2,400 meters on numerous occasions.

Java’s War's third dam is a daughter of Wing Out, a successful distance horse that won or placed in several long distance events, including a trifecta of grade ones. The colt's fourth dam, Careless Notion, was a fantastic broodmare, producing the grade one-winning Cacoethes, who won multiple mile and one-half races, as well as the additional grade one winner Fabulous Notion and the stakes-winning Margaret Booth.

The sire of Java's War's fifth dam is Nasrullah, a champion who won the prestigious Champion Stakes at ten furlongs. He has been very influential in the ancestry of the Thoroughbred and as a sire, he sired numerous distance horses, including Nashua - who won the Preakness and Belmont after finishing second in the Derby; Bold Ruler - Preakness victor and sire of Triple Crown winner Secretariat; Bald Eagle - a champion that excelled in route races; Belmont champion Jaipur; and an impressive abundance of other brilliant distance horses.

The main worry regarding Java's War's chances in the Kentucky Derby pertains to the questions about his ability to break sharply. In his past few starts, Java's War has left the gate very slowly, which could be detrimental in the Derby. However, he has left the gate well in the past. In addition, there may be doubts regarding his affinity for Churchill's dirt due to his sixth-place effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club over the Louisville oval last fall. But that number is deceiving, as Java's War turned in a better performance in that race than one may think. He could easily become underrated and surprise many on race day with a superb performance.

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