Irish War Cry powers to Holy Bull triumph
Irish War Cry (inside) held off O Dionysus to win the Marylander Stakes in December, added the Holy Bull to his resume yesterday. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
by Frank Vespe
Score one for the wise guys.
Based on his resume, Irish War Cry, winner of the Marylander Stakes at Laurel Park on New Year’s Eve, deserved the longshot status accorded him by Gulfstream Park’s morning line maker heading into yesterday’s $350,000, Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes, what with two-year-old champ Classic Empire and graded winner Gunnevara also slated to face the starter. But the sophomore Curlin colt became something of the wise guy choice for the event, and he was sent off at 4.40-1 off a 15-1 morning line.
Turns out, the bettors were right.
Under jockey Joel Rosario, aboard the New Jersey-bred for the first time, Irish War Cry made every step a winning one en route to a commanding 3 3/4 length victory. And now, with El Areeb’s dominant win in the Withers, two horses who prepped in Maryland are near the head of the Derby trail class.
“He’s a really nice horse and I was obviously really high on him, but when you’re running against the juvenile champion, you have reservations,” said winning trainer Graham Motion. “I was torn. I was toying with the idea of running in the Sam Davis [at Tampa Bay Downs, Feb. 11]. I thought it might be a little easier race, because he’s so lightly raced. But the more I looked at it, the way he was working, I just thought we had to take a shot today.”
Irish War Cry, breaking from the five-hole in the seven-horse field, was quickest away and had a clear lead by midway on the first turn in the 1 1/16 mile test. He held a one-length lead after a half-mile in 47.92 seconds, and inched a further half-length ahead after three quarters in 1:11.87.
“He broke very nice,” said Rosario. “I thought the favorite [Classic Empire] was going to show some speed but it looked like he didn’t come out of there well and I came out of there very well, so I just kept hold of my spot where I was.”
Classic Empire was perched wide and in third in the early going. But by the time the field was approaching the lane, jockey Julien Leparoux was imploring Classic Empire for more run without receiving a response. Meanwhile, Rosario was sitting chilly as the field approached the final straight.
“Actually he really kicked on again,” Rosario said. “He was in the lead and very comfortable and turning for home I asked him a little bit and he responded. I was very happy with that.”
Irish War Cry kicked clear in the lane and was never really challenged. Gunnevara, under Javier Castellano, tried to make an inside move on the turn, was shut off by Talk Logistics, had to steady, and then came outside for running room. He finished up nicely to earn the place, five lengths clear of Classic Empire in third; Gunnevara might be the only runner here who can point to trip issues as a significant factor in the outcome, but his connections did not go there.
“I think it was a very good race,” said his trainer, Antonio Sano. “I think the last two furlongs, [jockey Javier] Castellano had a little bump but he ran good. I’m very happy with him.”
Irish War Cry, owned by his breeder, Isabelle de Tomaso, now has three wins from three career starts. The winner’s share of the purse pushed his career earnings to $295,460. De Tomaso is a daughter of Amory Haskell, one of the founders of Monmouth Park and namesake of the Haskell Invitational.
Only two Kentucky Derby winners were bred in the Garden State, most recently Cavalcade, the 1934 champ. Now, for trainer Motion, the question is how best to steer his horse to Louisville for the May 6 Kentucky Derby. Gulfstream’s series of preps leads to the Fountain of Youth on March 4 and the Florida Derby April 1.
“I really haven’t gotten beyond today,” he said after the race. “I don’t know if I want to run in every race. It will be hard enough to run back in one of them, obviously, but we’ll figure it out.”