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Isabelle de Tomaso's Irish War Cry is scheduled to make his 2018 debut in Saturday's $100,000 Hal's Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park, where the multiple graded-stakes winner registered a scintillating triumph in the Holy Bull (G2) last year.
"It's a very logical place to bring him back," trainer Graham Motion said. "Someone said to me, `Well, he loves Gulfstream.' I said, `He also may have run his worst race at Gulfstream."
After setting the pace and scoring a 3 ½-length victory over Gunnevera and Classic Empire in the $350,000 Holy Bull to remain undefeated in three career starts, Irish War Cry mystified Motion and the bettors who made him their even-money favorite by finishing seventh in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2).
"I have no idea [about the poor performance]. I wish I could explain any of his poor races, but I can't," Motion said.
Irish War Cry rebounded from his first loss to capture the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct by two lengths, but the New Jersey-bred colt weakened after stalking the pace to finish 10th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The son of Curlin came back to finish second behind Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes (G1) before completing his 3-year-old season with a fourth-place finish in the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth and a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx.
"It's a little bit hard to tell what track he likes, but I think the mile [of the Hal's Hope] is very good for him and he won on that track before," Motion said. "I'm not sure he wants to go a mile and a half and a mile and a quarter, like we tried to run him last year. His family tends to be miler, shorter distance types. So I think there's a chance you could see him doing this the rest of the year."
Irish War Cry has produced strong six-furlong workouts in the last three workouts in a series of eight breezes at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite facility in Palm Beach County.
"I've been very happy with him. He's always been a good work horse, so it's not a surprise that he's working well," Motion said. "I've been very happy how he's done since he's had his little break."
Irish War Cry has also impressed his trainer with his physical appearance.
"He's grown up physically. He's a bigger, stronger, more mature horse this year," Motion said. "His family improves from 3 to 4."
Irish War Cry, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz for the first time Saturday, demonstrated versatility during his 3-year-old campaign.
"I'll leave it up to Jose. He's worked him the past month or so. I think he has a good handle on him. I wanted to give him a chance to get to know him and give him confidence in him. I'll leave it up to Jose," Motion said. "I think he's a horse you can do just about anything with on any given day."
Irish War Cry is scheduled to face seven rivals, including the Todd Pletcher-trained graded-stakes winners Malagacy and Send It In.
Race 12 on Gulfstream Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:35 PM
|1||Irish War Cry||Jose Ortiz||H. Motion|
|2||Economic Model||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Chad Brown|
|3||Conquest Big E||Luis Saez||Donna Hurtak|
|4||Tower of Texas||Tyler Gaffalione||Roger Attfield|
|5||Quijote||Emisael Jaramillo||Armando De la cerda|
|6||Malagacy||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher|
|7||Giuseppe the Great||Nik Juarez||Nicholas Zito|
|8||Send It In||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
Sumaya U.S. Stables' Malagacy returned from a nine-month layoff to finish second behind Extravagant Kid in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance race at Gulfstream Jan. 18.
"I expect him to benefit from the race. He's come back with some good breezes since then," Pletcher said. "I think he'll benefit from the little stretch-out."
The 4-year-old son of Shackleford became a hot Triple Crown prospect last year by winning his debut by 15 lengths and an optional claiming allowance by seven lengths before capturing the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn by two lengths. Malagacy went to the sidelines, however, after a fifth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Paul Pompa Jr.'s Send It In has been idle since capturing the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct April 8.
"If he can repeat that 119 Beyer Figure he had last time, that'd be alright," Pletcher said.
The New York-bred 6-year-old gelding has won nine of 17 career starts, including three two-turn stakes.
"He hasn't been out in a while. A mile is probably a tick short of his absolute best, but he has won going the one-turn mile before," Pletcher said. "We need to get him started somewhere."
Javier Castellano has the mount aboard Malagacy, while John Velazquez is set to ride Send It In.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Economic Model is also slated to make his 2018 debut in the Hal's Hope.
Grade 1 stakes-placed as a 3-year-old in 2016, the Chad Brown-trained 5-year-old son of Flatter broke through with a victory in his fourth 2017 start in an optional claiming allowance at Belmont Oct. 12 before getting a break. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount.
Daniel Hurtak's Conquest Big E., who finished second behind Tommy Macho in the Feb. 9 Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream; Mossarosa's Giuseppe the Great, who finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby; Thomas Van Meter II and Scott Dilworth's Tower of Texas, a multiple graded-stakes winner on turf; and Midwest Thoroughbreds' Quijote, a stakes winner over the Gulfstream track; round out the field.
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