02/04/2017 8:21PM

Motion rewarded for running Irish War Cry in Holy Bull

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Barbara D. Livingston
Irish War Cry, racing on Lasix for the first time, scores by 3 3/4 lengths under Joel Rosario in the Holy Bull.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Trainer Graham Motion said he was torn between whether to launch Irish War Cry’s 3-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park or wait a week for the Grade 3 Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.  In the end, there was little doubt Motion made the right choice after Irish War Cry cruised to an impressive 3 3/4-length victory over Gunnevera, with reigning Juvenile champion Classic Empire finishing third as the 1-2 favorite in the Grade 2 Holy Bull, the first of two important local preps leading up to the $1 million Florida Derby here on April 1.

With Joel Rosario aboard and while also racing on Lasix for the first time, Irish War Cry set a modest pace over a fast but certainly not lightning racetrack, posting splits of 24.14 seconds, 47.92, and 1:11.87 for the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile  Holy Bull while  stalked from the outset by Talk Logistics and Classic Empire. Rosario clearly still had a ton of horse under him, while Talk Logistics and Classic Empire were fully extended trying to make a run at the leader on the final turn. And despite not changing leads until the eighth pole, Irish War Cry had more than enough in reserve to easily turn back a belated but futile bid from Gunnevera once finally set down for the final drive.

Gunnevera saved ground while kept within easy striking distance early, checked briefly attempting to run up inside Talk Logistics approaching the quarter pole, swung wide to continue his bid into the stretch, lugged back near the rail through midstretch, and was easily second-best while never seriously menacing the winner.

Classic Empire got noticeably hot leaving the paddock and even more so during the post parade, balked briefly loading into the starting gate, and then broke a step slow before recovering to take up a perfect striking position racing wide and just off the leader. But Classic Empire had little response when roused by jockey Julien Leparoux on the final bend, finishing a tiring third, nine lengths behind the winner while making his first start since winning the Breeder’ Cup Juvenile three months ago. 

Talk Logistics, Cavil, Perro Rojo, and Shamsaan, who was pulled up in the stretch, rounded out the complete order of finish. Fact Finding was scratched earlier in the day by trainer Todd Pletcher in lieu of waiting to run next week in the Sam Davis. 

Irish War Cry, who won his only two previous starts, both at Laurel, is a homebred son of Curlin bred by his owner, Isabelle de Tomaso, in New Jersey. He covered the distance in 1:42.52 and paid $10.80.

“It’s pretty exciting, there’s nothing like being involved in these 3-year-old races,” said Motion. “I thought the Sam Davis would be a little easier spot since he’s so lightly raced, but the way he’s been working I just felt we had to take a shot today. I kind of thought we’d inherit the lead after Fact Finding scratched. The only thing I told Joel is that I just wanted him to settle, and he rode him very confidently.”

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Motion said he has nothing in mind for Irish War Cry’s next start. The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth is the second of three Kentucky Derby preps to be run here this winter, at 1 1/8 miles, on March 4.

“I don’t know if he’s going to stay a mile and one quarter.  I don’t think any of us know, although he was pretty relaxed today,” said Motion. “I really haven’t gotten beyond today, although I don’t know if I want to run in every one of them [local Derby preps]. It’s hard enough to run back in one.”                     

Trainer Mark Casse said he had no excuse for Classic Empire from the standpoint of his trip.

“He had no excuse, none whatsoever,” said Casse referring to Classic Empire’s positioning during the race. “He gets a little hot, but maybe [he was] hotter than normal today, so I don’t know. We will regroup.”