02/05/2017 10:22AM

Irish War Cry's victory tweaks Kentucky Derby picture

Claire Powell
Irish War Cry will likely next race in the March 4 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, trainer Graham Motion said.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Kentucky Derby picture from these parts wasn’t exactly turned upside down Saturday when Irish War Cry led all the way to win the Holy Bull Stakes, but it sure got knocked sideways.

Classic Empire, the reigning divisional champion and 1-2 favorite, came up empty when finishing a distant third in the Grade 2, $350,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, thereby scrambling the pecking order of Derby contenders based in south Florida.

Trainer Graham Motion reported early Sunday that all was well with Irish War Cry, a New Jersey-bred colt who is now unbeaten in three career starts. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Irish War Cry took early command in the 1 1/16-mile race and was never seriously threatened thereafter, winning by 3 3/4 lengths and earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure as the 4-1 third choice in a field of seven 3-year-olds.

Gunnevera, the 3-1 second choice, overcame a spot of trouble leaving the final turn to be second, another five lengths before Classic Empire.

Motion, who won the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom, said he will map out a race schedule for Irish War Cry with the colt’s owner-breeder Isabelle de Tomaso, a daughter of legendary Monmouth Park founder Amory Haskell. Motion indicated the March 4 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream is the most likely next race.

Meanwhile, Mark Casse was scratching his head Sunday morning in the aftermath of the Classic Empire clunker. The colt was making his first start since clinching an Eclipse Award by winning the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“He didn’t handle anything very good yesterday,” Casse said. “He’s a really smart horse, and he’s performed in front of big crowds before and all that. But he didn’t handle it from the start. He was upset on the van on the ride down (from the Palm Meadows training center), and of course he got upset in the paddock and post parade and acted like he didn’t want to go in the gate. He was just irritated all day. Even Julien said he just kind of didn’t have the horse under him he usually does,” referring to jockey Julien Leparoux. ”Obviously we didn’t see the real Classic Empire yesterday.”

Casse said because Classic Empire appeared to be struggling over the Gulfstream surface, “it’s more likely than not” that the colt will make his next start at a different track. A multitude of Derby prep races are available in the coming weeks.

“The thing is, he’s fine this morning,” Casse said. “He looks great and he’s happy. But hey, this is horse racing. It’s why I never take anything for granted. When I do, it bites me right on the rear end.”

The next Florida prep for the May 6 Kentucky Derby will come next Saturday, when the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis is run on the other side of the peninsula at Tampa Bay Downs. McCraken looms a solid favorite in a field also expected to include Wild Shot, Fact Finding, No Dozing, and Chance of Luck. Entries will be taken Wednesday.

After being left off the schedule the last three years, the Davis carries points value (10-4-2-1) toward Derby eligibility for the first time since 2013, the first year Churchill began using the points system.


flum1448 11 months ago
All Motion has to do is put Jersey Joe Bravo as the jock and there good to go
Joe Rockhold 11 months ago
No thank you.
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Graham Motion - Another Animal Kingdom?
Mike Lee 11 months ago
Shipping issues or maybe the horse was just havin' a bad day...why not stay the course at GP and take on Irish War Cry again!!!   ...maybe his connections came to the same conclusion I did,Irish War Cry's stride is a thing of beauty and Classic Empire may never catch this front running son of a Curlin!
Garial Marsh 11 months ago
The question is not if m cases is a gd trainer. This horse means way too much to risk him once he showed the signs of being irritated. Poor decision. Smart thing was the scratch and regroup. Makes you wonder what the deal was behind closed doors to start him!! Shame!
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Garial - Gulfstream Park Wants The Money All The Time - Does Not Care For The Horses?
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Now Gulfstream Park Will Never See Classic Empire Again After Dropping The Ball?
Philip Shehady 11 months ago
Pgh phil will give you an honest and educated handicap the day after pp our revealed#BREAK A LEG
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Why Didn't Mark Casse Scratch Classic Empire - Remember! Horses Are Worth More Than Money - Time For Investigation?
Philip Shehady 11 months ago
Its senseless to attempt to hadicap the Kentucky derby. until we see post positions and track conditions! So if any of you try and handicap that race prior YOUR JUST GUESSING! PGH PHIL
realgooddogtoo 11 months ago
Mark Casse is a smart , good trainer, he will figure out what is best for Classic Empire . One thing for sure Irish War Cry is the real deal, the way he finished in the Holly Bull was very impressive.
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Real - Mark & Norman Casse Is Not Smart, If They Were They Would Have Scratched Classic Empire?
Mark Kennedy 11 months ago
Maybe IWC and Gunavera are the real deal and have improved.  Classic Empire was in the perfect position to win that race and jar came up empty.  Maybe he just can't get the distance 
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Mark - Watch The Horse In The Post Parade - Late Scratch - Classic Empire - 2017 Holy Bull?
Scott 11 months ago
I was watching the race on TVG and checked my balance as soon as I got a good look at Classic Empire...unfortunately, the cupboard was bare.  LOL!  I was actually surprised he finished third after seeing how he looked going into the gate.  It's pretty rare that a horse that looks that washed out wins a race.  The only one I can remember doing it was Shackleford in the Preakness Stakes a few years back.

Early Derby Preps usually don't tell us too much and if anything tend to muddy the situation.  Yesterday's Holy Bull falls into that category for me.  The top 3 finishers are still win candidates for the Derby in my opinion.  Classic Empire just didn't have it yesterday, so I will be watching for his next prep and watching the tote board...maybe I'll make up for missing the bet against yesterday and bet with.  LOL!
Gregory Crnkovic 11 months ago
I was thinking the same thing about Shackleford! He was sweating up a storm and when the gates opened up he took it straight to the front and they never caught him! This year kinda harkins back to the start of last year with the combo of Oxley/Casse/Leparoux/Airoforce. Still haven't found out what happened to Airoforce since his last loss......
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Scott - Classic Empire Looked Really Bad - Like California Chrome, But Gulfstream Park Wants The Mucho Dinero Not The Horse?
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Scott - Why Didn't Mark Casse Scratch Classic Empire - Everyone Saw The Horse - Mark Casse Already Scratched Tepin From Going To Tampa Bay Downs This Weekend?
Joseph Donato 11 months ago
obviously this a good horse. obviously something was amiss yesterday. they cant talk back,so you just dont know. now they weigh  the alternatives(different track,different distance,spaces between races. yutta yutta... but one thing i believe is, if something happened like it did yesterday(they saw the signs before the race) YOU SCRATCH THE HORSE!!!!!   ps. the jockey(leparoux) isnt exactly the best at making in race adjustments .
Scott 11 months ago
I agree Joseph, they should have scratched him if all the signs were there like they said.  An irritated horse doesn't tend to win races.  I felt certain he was a toss as soon as I saw him going into the gate.  
john gardner 11 months ago
I have to agree, the trainer had noted he hasn't been himself all day, and as washed out as he was and acting up. Like the other reply said, I also remenber Shackleford all washed out, and he still won, but usually thats not a good sign.I did like that the trainer was going to a different track for his next race though.
realgooddogtoo 11 months ago
I also agree with Joseph, anytime a horse act like that , he just is trying to tell you that something is wrong, he is either hurting somewhere, and the vet at the starting gate should look at very close and scratch that horse if he feels is necessary , look what happened with California Chrome after the way he acts up at the gate.
Molly Julia 11 months ago
Joseph - We Were Present At Gulfstream Park With 20 Of Our Friends From Churchill Downs & Gulfstream Park Vet Should Have Scratched Classic Empire - Time For Belinda Stronach To Step In & Replace Vet?
Joseph Donato 11 months ago
if thats the case, we have to wonder about the state(condition) of CALIFORNIA CHROME BEFORE THE his race???? right? maybe?