Maragh, Irish War Cry “a logical fit” for Haskell

by | Jul 26, 2017 | Breaking, New Jersey, NJ Racing, Racing

Irish War Cry

Irish War Cry (inside) wins the Marylander Stakes. Photo by The Racing Biz.

From a Monmouth Park release

While he was preparing Isabelle de Tomaso’s homebred Irish War Cry for the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct in April, trainer Graham Motion suddenly found out he was without the colt’s regular rider. It turned out to be a good problem to have.

“Rajiv [Maragh] was available and he was a logical fit. Joel Rosario had decided to go to the Blue Grass that day at Keeneland, which left me looking for a rider. I felt very strongly about having somebody who had been riding in New York over the winter. He certainly came through for us that day in the Wood and gave him a really good ride,” said Motion, who termed the victory that day as Irish War Cry’s best performance to date.

The horse Rosario went with is Practical Joke. As fate would have it, Irish War Cry, the reigning 2-year-old Male champion New Jersey Bred, and Practical Joke, with Rosario aboard, will meet in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park Sunday.

Maragh, who was in the irons when Irish War Cry finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) last out, will remained partnered with him and Motion wouldn’t have it any other way. The horse and rider are now simpatico.

“Rajiv has come up to Fair Hill [where Motion stables his horses] and worked him for me. He galloped him leading up to the Wood, which is something I’ve never done with a jockey before,” the trainer said. “I thought it was really important for Rajiv to have an understanding with him, and yes, I think they really do have a rapport.”

Maragh was involved in a terrible spill at Belmont in July 2015 when his mount clipped heels with another horse. The rider was thrown face down on the track and when his horse fell, he landed on top of him, breaking his back in several places, his ribs, and collapsing a lung. Once he was released from the hospital, not only was Maragh’s 16 months rehabilitation program long, intensive, and difficult, it was excruciatingly painful, even when he tried to sleep.

Determined not to quit his career, he was finally, and miraculously, able to return to the saddle this past November. Motion is perhaps the trainer who proved most supportive.

“We had great success together with Main Sequence. Not only is he a friend of mine, but I have great respect for what he came back from, and I think of him as a really good rider,” Motion said.

The trainer and the rider certainly did click with Main Sequence. In his first American effort after being sent from Europe to Motion by owner Flaxman Holdings LLC, the connections won the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth in July 2014. That was the first of Main Sequence’s four victories, all in Grade 1 affairs in his undefeated season that culminated with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and two Eclipse Awards as champion Male Turf Horse and Champion Older Horse.

Should Irish War Cry win on Sunday, it will mark the first Grade 1 win since 2014 for Maragh.

In addition to Irish War Cry, this year’s Haskell field includes Grade 1 winner Practical Joke and the undefeated Timeline, both from the Chad Brown barn. Also headed for the Haskell are Kentucky Derby third place finisher Battle of Midway, and multiple graded stakes winners Girvin, Hence and McCraken.

Post positions for the 50th running of the Haskell will be drawn on Thursday, July 27, and the race will be televised nationally on NBC-TV from 5 to 6 p.m. All day race coverage will be live on TVG.