Irish War Cry favored in Fountain of Youth

by | Mar 2, 2017 | Breaking, Racing, Top Stories, Triple Crown Trail

Irish War Cry (inside) will look to run his record to four-for-four in the Fountain of Youth. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

From a Gulfstream Park release

Undefeated through three career starts, most recently taking down 2016 juvenile champion Classic Empire in their sophomore debuts, Isabelle de Tomaso’s New Jersey homebred Irish War Cry will face his toughest test yet in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

The 71st running of the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, the second of Gulfstream’s three major Triple Crown preps for 3-year-olds during the Championship Meet, anchors a blockbuster 13-race card featuring nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.5 million in purses.

Also on the program are the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale (G2) for 3-year-old fillies and $100,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) for older horses on dirt, along with six turf stakes: the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2), $150,000 The Very One (G3), $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3) and $100,000 Sand Springs for older horses; and the $100,000 Palm Beach (G3) and $100,000 Herecomesthebride (G3) for 3-year-olds.

Trained by Graham Motion, a late arrival in his last trip down the Triple Crown trail with 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom, Irish War Cry returns to Gulfstream as a narrow 5-2 program favorite in the Fountain of Youth four weeks after an impressive front-running 3 ¾-length triumph over multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera in the Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2).

Fourth-place finisher Talk Logistics is also back from the Holy Bull to take another shot at Irish War Cry in the Fountain of Youth, which drew a competitive field of 11 featuring dual Grade 1 winner Practical Joke in his 3-year-old debut, multiple graded stakes winner Made You Look trying dirt for the first time, four-time Florida-bred stakes winner Three Rules, Grade 3-placed Takaful, Peruvian Group 1 winner Huracan Americo and promising but lightly raced Beasley and Looking for Eight in their stakes debuts.

Irish War Cry, a chestnut son of Hall of Famer Curlin, overcame a wide trip and his own greenness to rally from off the pace for a 4 ½-length victory in his unveiling last fall at Laurel Park, where he returned with a gutsy nose decision over multiple stakes winner O Dionysus in the Marylander Dec. 31.

He was soon shipped from Motion’s base at the Fair Hill Training Center in northern Maryland to his southern string at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, to prepare for his sophomore opener.

“He has really perked up in the mornings. He was a pretty laid-back horse when we left Fair Hill in the fall. He is now a pretty sharp 3-year-old colt, which is exciting to see,” Motion said. “I thought he was a nice horse but when he broke his maiden I couldn’t have imagined ever he would have won the why he did. He has just handled everything so well. Some horses just seem to handle every step and, knock on wood, he has.”

Motion was initially unsure about tackling Classic Empire in the Holy Bull but listened as Irish War Cry touted himself during training. There was less hesitation to come back in the Fountain of Youth where he is one of five horses already with a victory over Gulfstream’s main track.

“It just seems logical. He’s here. He’s lightly raced. I don’t really need to be skipping races at this point,” he said. “He’s only run three times. The Fountain of Youth on its own is a big race. I think he needs to be in there.”

Proven to be fast and talented, circumstances more than his natural speed and ability have led Irish War Cry to win on the lead in his last two races, particularly in the Holy Bull. The scratch of Fact Finding left him loose up front with Classic Empire never able to threaten and Gunnevera racing in his familiar spot off the pace.

“It’s going to be a little different this time. We didn’t have a target on our back last time. I couldn’t believe how comfortably he beat the 2-year-old champion. That was exciting,” Motion said. “This time … people will have expectations, as they should. I just would like to see him run a similar race. He’s doing great and I see no reason not to run in the Fountain of Youth. We’re looking forward to it.”

It certainly won’t be an easy spot.

Owned by Seth Klaravich and William Lawrence, 3-1 morning-line second choice Practical Joke shows seven breezes at Palm Meadows for his comeback race, most recently going a half-mile in 48 seconds Feb. 26, third-fastest of 41 horses.

Last time out, the bay son of Grade 1 winner Into Mischief was jostled at the start and raced wide to the half-mile pole, looming a threat at the top of the stretch before settling for third behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That effort came after back-to-back narrow victories in the Champagne (G1) and Hopeful (G1) that followed a runaway debut triumph at Saratoga.

Jockey Jose Ortiz, last aboard in the Hopeful, is named to ride in place of Joel Rosario who opted to stick with Irish War Cry following the Holy Bull. Ortiz ranks second with $2,644,938 in purse earnings from just 79 mounts at the Championship Meet, 20 of them wins. They will break from Post 6, two spots inside Irish War Cry, and both share topweight of 122 pounds.

The Holy Bull runner-up, Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera, also is set to make his second start of 2017 here after capping his juvenile season with a 5 ¾-length victory in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3). He broke his maiden last July at Gulfstream before a 9-1 upset of the Saratoga Special (G2) in his subsequent start.

In the Holy Bull, Gunnevera ran into traffic trouble and had to steady when jockey Javier Castellano attempted to get through along the inside on the far turn. Once back running, he closed sharply to finish five lengths ahead of Classic Empire in third. Castellano returns to ride from Post 2 as the 7-2 third program choice.

“The last time when he lost the race, he got bumped on the last turn and it broke his action. He had to start running again,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “He’s a very good horse. Thank God the horse is very sound for the race.

“I am very confident and thinking he can win. He will be facing some very good horses. No race is easy but I have a good horse,” he added. “We don’t want to change anything from the last race. The only difference is, we want to win.”

Beasley, at 6-1, is the only other runner in the 11-horse field under 10-1 on the morning line.