War of Will Horse: Meet the Jockey, Owner & Trainer

Getty Patch #20, ridden by jockey Tyler Gaffalione, takes part in the post parade prior to the start of the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017.

Omaha Beach was the odds-on favorite at the 2019 Kentucky Derby until a case of entrapped epiglottis forced trainer Richard Mandella to sideline the colt. Since then, Bob Baffert’s trio of Roadster, Improbable and Game Winner became the talk of the town at Churchill Downs.

A few experts, however, are honing in on War of Will as a surprise contender. SportsLine’s Jody Demling talked to CBS Sports about why he thinks the bay colt with 17-to-1 odds has a chance at glory in Louisville.

War of Will vaulted to near the top of early-season Kentucky Derby 2019 rankings after winning the Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans. In his next race, the Louisiana Derby, he stumbled out of the starting gates and finished ninth. Since then, however, the horse has trained brilliantly, and trainer Mark Casse says War of Will is all systems go. Following this week’s post draw, he told reporters, “Our horse is really on his game, so he’ll come away from the inside post running.”

Demling mentioned Casse, who is teaming up with owner Gary Barber and jockey Tyler Gaffalione for a potential victory Saturday evening. None of them have won a Triple Crown race in their combined careers, but War of Will has earned them $370,000 so far this season.

Here’s what you need to know about all three.

Meeting Mark Casse, Gary Barber & Tyler Gaffalione

Casse has won over 2,000 races in his 43-year career, which earned him a place in the 2016 Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. While he was born in Indianapolis and raised in Ocala (Fla.), some of his biggest victories came in the Canadian Triple Crown.

Those wins came at Queen’s Plate twice (2014 & 2018), the Prince of Wales Stakes (2009, 2012 & 2013) and the Breeder’s Stakes in 2007. According to his Hall of Fame writeup, he started training as a teenager.

At age 15 he was running his dad’s Cardinal Hill Stable. He got his trainer’s licence when he was 17 and in 1979 won his first race at Keeneland, Ky. His first Gr. 1 winner was Exciting Story, who won the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont in 2001 at odds of 56-to-1. The colt was owned by Mangurian, who gave Casse the biggest boost of his career when he hired him to run his racing and breeding operation in 1998, which was the year Casse opened a public stable at Woodbine. Instead of shipping from track to track in Kentucky, where he often was the leading trainer at Churchill Downs or Turfway, Woodbine’s facilities, quality of racing and a home base for five or six months a year appealed to Casse. He has left an indelible imprint on Canadian racing.

Casse’s best finish at a Kentucky Derby came in 2015, when Danzig Moon finished 5th in 2015.

He has frequently collaborated with Barber, CEO of the film production studio Spyglass Entertainment. The 62-year old South African has produced such motion pictures as “Seabiscuit” (nominated for seven Academy Awards), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (won three Academy Awards), “The Insider” (nominated for seven Academy Awards) and “The Sixth Sense” (nominated for six Academy Awards).

Typically a Thoroughbred owner, Barber is going with a bay colt in War of Will this time around. From his America’s Best Racing bio:

Notable horses he has been a part of include In Lingerie, Cost of Freedom, Comma to the Top, Jack Milton, Appealing Tale and 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Catch a Glimpse.

Tourist won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2016 for a partnership that included Barber. He won two Canadian classic races in 2018 with Wonder Gadot, named for “Wonder Woman” actress Gail Gadot. Channel Maker earned a Grade 1 win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes in 2018 for Barber and partners Wachtel Stable, R. A. Hill Stable, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing.

ABR Wired: Louisiana Derby Day with Jockey Tyler GaffalioneFollow rising star jockey Tyler Gaffalione as he prepares for and competes in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby with favorite War of Will. Gaffalione talks about his racetrack romance, previous successes aboard talented 3-year-old War of Will, his relationship with trainer Mark Casse, and a disappointing outcome in the race. Visit: americasbestracing.net for more!2019-03-28T12:09:05.000Z

With Barber’s money and Casse’s training, Gaffalione is attempting to continue his ascent in the jockeying world. According to Thoroughbred Daily News in 2017, the 24-year old from Davie (Fla.) is a rising star in the horse racing circuit. He was set to ride Patch in his first Kentucky Derby at the time.

Gaffalione is a third-generation rider. He’s the son of jockey Steve Gaffalione and also the grandson of a rider. His grandfather, who rode under the name of Bobby Gaffglione, was aboard Rexson’s Hope when he finished 10th in the 1984 Kentucky Derby. There was never any doubt that Tyler was going to be a jockey.

“My dad wouldn’t let me get my license when I was 16, and I wasn’t too thrilled about it,” said Gaffalione, who grew up in Florida. “The one rule was that I had to finish high school. But I was always galloping horses in the morning before school started and during the summers I’d go to Ocala to get on horses and I’d work them at the 2-year-old sales. From the time I was 10 or 11, I’ve been getting on horses.”

The trio’s respective journeys have all led to today’s 145th Kentucky Derby, which is set to start at 6L50 p.m. EST on NBC.

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