OffTrackBetting.com - Isabelle de Tomaso's multiple Grade 2 winner Irish War Cry continues to steadily move toward his 4-year-old debut, which trainer Graham Motion expects to come during the Gulfstream Park Championship Meet.
The New Jersey-bred son of Hall of Famer Curlin has breezed twice at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, since arriving in South Florida last month.
Irish War Cry went three furlongs in 37.45 seconds, second-fastest of 23 horses, Dec. 31 and worked a half-mile in 48.65 seconds Jan. 6, ranking 17th of 83 horses.
"I'm very happy with him," Motion said. "I think he's grown up and filled out, all the things I hoped for. Irish Straight, his brother, was a different horse from 4 to 3. He made leaps and bounds, so I'm hoping that might be the case with this guy. He really physically has improved a lot."
Undefeated in two starts at 2, including the Marylander at Laurel Park in his stakes debut, Irish War Cry opened his sophomore season with an impressive win in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream. A disappointing seventh in the Fountain of Youth (G2) was followed by a solid comeback victory in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.
Tenth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), a pacesetting Irish War Cry was caught late and finished second in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) last June. He hasn't raced since running eighth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 23.
"He's really filled out in his shoulder and his girth and his chest. Fingers crossed we'll have a good year with him," Motion said. "He'll probably be ready to start at the end of February, beginning of March."
Dirt stakes for 4-year-olds and up at Gulfstream include the $100,000 Hal's Hope (G3) Feb. 24 and Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) March 31, both at one mile. The $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) at 1 3/8 miles on turf is run March 3.
"There's a couple of fairly obvious options at Gulfstream; it's just a question I guess of which one he's going to be ready for," Motion said. "My inclination is to start him at Gulfstream where he's run well before."
On Saturday, Motion will send out multiple stakes-winner Ultra Brat in the $150,000 Marshua's River (G3). The 5-year-old daughter of Uncle Mo has made one start since her victory in the Tropical Park Oaks in December 2016, leading late before tiring to fourth in the six-furlong Autumn Days Stakes Nov. 23 at Aqueduct.
"We just ended up giving her a break. It wasn't like she had a significant issue or anything, she just needed a break," Motion said. "I thought she ran very well. She was kind of coming but, from what I've noticed, it was a little bit hard to make up ground in the sprint races on the new turf course. I think another couple of strides and she gets a piece of it."
Ultra Brat has had three five-furlong works at Palm Meadows, most recently going in 1:02.25 Jan. 6. Though she owns a pair of wins on the dirt, Motion believes she has found her niche on the grass, where she has won both her stakes.
"I have so many turf horses I don't like just to make them into turf horses if the pedigree leans toward dirt. As is the case so often, a lot of them do improve on the turf so I like to give them that opportunity. She's one that has always shown a lot in the morning, so I was always suspicious that it might help her," he said. "I've been very happy with her. She's breezed well at Palm Meadows and she's doing great."