06/14/2017 10:36AM

Irish War Cry freshening up for Haskell

Barbara D. Livingston
Belmont Stakes runner-up Irish War Cry is getting a break at Fair Hill Training Center.

Belmont Stakes runner-up Irish War Cry vanned back to trainer Graham Motion’s stable at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland on Monday and will spend the next seven weeks preparing for the 50th running of the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 30.

Irish War Cry, a New Jersey-bred, is owned by Isabelle de Tomaso, 86, the daughter of Amory L. Haskell, the first president of Monmouth Park. The Haskell has long been Irish War Cry’s summer goal.

A son of 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin, Irish War Cry was in the midst of a roller-coaster season coming into the Belmont, interspersing brilliant victories in the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial with disappointing performances in the Fountain of Youth and Kentucky Derby.

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But in the Belmont, Irish War Cry put his “A” game on display in front of a national audience. He took the early lead in the 1 1/2-mile race under Rajiv Maragh and succumbed only to Tapwrit late while far ahead of the race’s nine other runners.

Motion said he likes the spacing between the Belmont and the Haskell because it will give Irish War Cry time to recover from a taxing race.

"This was his hardest race and he may need the seven weeks to get ready," Motion said.

Motion said he plans to give Irish War Cry some rest before putting him back into serious training.

“He’ll have an easy couple of weeks, if he behaves,” Motion said. “We’ll give him some paddock time, and then we’ll start him back up.”

An hour prior to the Belmont, Motion sent out Ascend to score a $57 upset in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Manhattan under jockey Jose Ortiz, who would come back to beat Irish War Cry on Tapwrit.

Ascend, a 5-year-old son of Candy Ride who races for his breeder, Stone Farm, and Madaket Stables, is now 7 for 15 and has won three consecutive races. Motion said he is considering two options for Ascend.

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“He will either go straight to the Arlington Million or to the Bowling Green,” he said.

The Grade 1 Arlington Million will be run at 1 1/4 miles on turf Aug. 12. The Bowling Green is a Grade 2, $250,000 race at 1 3/8 miles at Saratoga on July 29.

The Belmont card may have produced another Haskell starter, as Bob Baffert, the Haskell’s all-time winningest trainer with eight victories, scored impressive wins in the 1 1/16-mile Easy Goer with West Coast and the seven-furlong Woody Stephens with American Anthem.

After the Easy Goer, Baffert said West Coast now looked ready “to take on top horses.”

“He could go to Monmouth or some of the other derbies around the country,” Baffert said.

Baffert was impressed with American Anthem’s victory and after the race said he still thought the son of Bodemeister could go long. Prior to the Stephens, American Anthem had faltered in a pair of two-turn races, the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the Santa Anita Derby.