November 29, 2023

Irish War Cry, Hollywood Handsome confirmed for Belmont Stakes

Irish War Cry (outside) prior to working with Ascend ahead of June 10 Belmont Stakes (G1) (Screenshot)

Multiple Grade 2 hero Irish War Cry, who breezed three-quarters in 1:14 over the fast dirt at Fair Hill on Saturday, has been added to the list of runners taking part in the 149th edition of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 10.

Trainer Graham Motion confirmed the chestnut son of Curlin would make his next start in the third jewel of the Triple Crown after speaking with the colt’s owner/breeder, Isabelle de Tomaso. Irish War Cry was last seen finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

“That’s definitely what we intend to do, as long as things go well the next couple of days. She’s very much on board with taking a chance,” Motion said. “Obviously, we feel like he didn’t run his race on Derby day.

“I think sometimes we overthink these things a little bit. Right after the Derby, I was just so discouraged that I didn’t even want to think about another Triple Crown race,” the horseman added. “Watching him train and seeing how well he’s doing being back at Fair Hill and then seeing the result of the Preakness (G1), obviously he’s run well with those horses before. It made me think more about it.

“It’s a classic, it only comes around once in a horse’s lifetime and I think he deserves another chance.”

Motion noted that Irish War Cry exited his Saturday move, which happened in company with Manhattan Stakes (G1) hopeful Ascend, in good order.

“If we were going to consider running him he needed to have a solid work, and I think he did,” Motion said. “I thought he looked good this morning. We weighed him and he’s put on 10 pounds since the Derby. We’re very pleased with him.”

Rajiv Maragh retains the mount for the Belmont Stakes on the sophomore, who will van to Belmont Park on Wednesday following a training session at Fair Hill.

Another new addition to the Belmont Stakes field is Hollywood Handsome, whose prior stakes starts resulted in a fourth-place run in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and a fifth-placing in the Illinois Derby (G3).

“I’m so excited to get this horse to the Belmont Stakes,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “We originally toyed with the idea of keeping him at Churchill prior to the Kentucky Derby to see if we could sneak in with 10 points. We eventually decided to run in the Illinois Derby and forego the Kentucky Derby.

“He ran great in the Louisiana Derby,” Stewart continued. “Came flying, just missed third but ran really well. His race in Illinois wasn’t that good. He got away bad and it just went bad from there. But he ran well here the other day. I think a lot of the colt, and I think he’s going to like the distance. I think the mile and a half will be no problem.”

Hollywood Handsome returned a winner following his unplaced effort in the Illinois Derby, taking an allowance at his Churchill Downs home base by a quarter-length on May 14 as the even-money favorite. The bay son of Tapizar breezed five furlongs over Churchill’s fast dirt on Friday in an official time of 1:00.60, though Stewart credited his charge with working three-quarters in 1:14.

“In hindsight it wouldn’t have worked out with the (Kentucky) Derby,” Stewart admitted. “I’m glad we got back to the winner’s circle the other week in the allowance race. We’ve thought about the Belmont for a while, off and on. Just kicking around races. We thought about the Ohio Derby, the Matt Winn here. Talking to (owner) Mark (Stanley), we thought we’d take a shot. I think we’ve got a good shot.”

Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard for Hollywood Handsome’s recent allowance victory and will stay in the saddle for the Belmont Stakes.

“We’re very excited to ride for Dallas (Stewart) in the Belmont,” Geroux said. “We’ll head to New York on Thursday and have a lot of live mounts. Hollywood Handsome is a nice horse. It’s great to ride one like this in such a big race.”

As of Sunday, the Belmont Stakes field includes Classic Empire, Epicharis, Hollywood Handsome, Irish War Cry, J Boys Echo, Lookin at Lee, Meantime, Multiplier, Patch, Senior Investment, Tapwrit and Twisted Tom. Gormley remains possible to bring the prospective field to 13.