February 5, 2023

Irish War Cry, Miss Sky Warrior are Kentucky Derby, Oaks bound

Irish War Cry won the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct on Saturday, April 8, 2017 (c) NYRA/Robert Mauhar/Adam Coglianese Photography

Irish War Cry and Miss Sky Warrior were both doing well one day after their respective victories in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) and Gazelle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Irish War Cry rebounded off a well-beaten seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 4 to record a 3 1/2-length win in the Wood Memorial. The chestnut son of Curlin shipped back to trainer Graham Motion’s Fair Hill base Saturday and was in good condition on Sunday.

“He seems good this morning,” Motion said by phone on Sunday. “He’s obviously a little tired. It was a long day, shipping back last night and everything. He didn’t eat up everything last night, but otherwise he seems absolutely fine. He’s perky and looks nice.”

Irish War Cry suffered his first loss in the Fountain of Youth after capturing his initial three starts, including the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) on February 4 at Gulfstream. He got a rider change to Rajiv Maragh on Saturday after being ridden by Joel Rosario in his prior to starts.

“Things pretty much went as we hoped they would go,” Motion said. “He settled just off the pace and I guess I was a bit concerned on the backside because he kind of moved up quite early to the leader and, from what Rajiv told me, he felt like he had so much horse underneath him. My big question for him was how he thought about how he won, and he said he felt like he did it pretty comfortably really.

“He said he did everything he wanted him to do, that he could have put him anywhere in the race that he wanted and that was the kind of feedback I needed to hear.”

Irish War Cry earned 100 points toward a spot in the starting gate for the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1) thanks to his Wood Memorial victory. He previously was awarded 10 points for his Holy Bull triumph and not sits in fourth on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 110 total points.

Motion plans to ready Irish War Cry for the Derby at Fair Hill before traveling to Churchill Downs.

“I don’t see a necessity to get him to Churchill in a hurry; it’s very busy over there,” Motion explaind. “One of the reasons I wanted to get him home from Palm Meadows was to get him in a quieter environment at Fair Hill where he’s used to being, and I think it’s shown in his behavior this last week. I think he’s been more settled and I think it’s going to be advantageous to him to keep him there as long as I can.

“Right now, that’s my gut feeling. I can certainly change my mind but I’d probably keep him at Fair Hill and give him his one work before the Derby there.”

Motion is no stranger to preparing a horse for the Kentucky Derby. The conditioner saddled Animal Kingdom to Derby glory in 2011.

“Animal Kingdom was different because he had never run on the dirt, so we were very anxious to get him to Churchill and breeze on the dirt before we entered him in the Derby,” Motion said. “We wanted to be sure with that horse that he could handle the dirt, but it’s very different with this horse. He doesn’t have to answer that question.”

Miss Sky Warrior captures the Gazelle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct with Paco Lopez aboard on Saturday, April 8, 2017 (c) NYRA/Annette Jasko/Adam Coglianese Photography

Two races before Irish War Cry’s win in the Wood Memorial, Miss Sky Warrior wired the Gazelle by 13 lengths under jockey Paco Lopez.

“Unless (track announcer) Larry Collmus said ‘she’s moving like a tremendous machine,’ that’s the only thing that could have made it better,” trainer Kelly Breen said with a laugh, invoking the famous race call of Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont Stakes win. “I’m just pleased to say I’m associated with her. That’s the best way I can sum up watching the race and saying she’s my horse.”

The First Samurai filly earned 100 points and moved up to second on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 160 total points toward a spot in the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) starting gate. She’s riding a five-race win streak, having captured the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) and Tempted Stakes (G3) as a juvenile and opened her sophomore season with a win in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2).

Miss Sky Warrior exited the Gazelle “looking great,” according to Breen, who added he still has to speak with owner Arlene’s Sun Star Stable as to where the filly will train ahead of the Run for the Lilies.

“We’re going to regroup and come up with a game plan and see if we want to send her to Kentucky,” said Breen, who said there is a possibility she could return to train at Palm Meadows Training Center. “Hopefully she’s happy and healthy and we’ll be there the first Friday in May.”