BALTIMORE — Irish War Cry brought trainer Graham Motion back to the Kentucky Derby in 2017 and, while he didn’t fare well that day, just failed to hold off Tapwrit as the favorite in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in his next start.
Things had not gone so well for the New Jersey-bred since the “Test of the Champion,” as he missed the board in three of his next four starts. Motion, however, kept the faith, and the son of Curlin rewarded that confidence with a front-running win Friday in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) in the Baltimore slop.
Sent to the lead from post 1 by Jose Ortiz, Irish War Cry set fractions of :23.19, :47.25, and 1:11.58, edged away from his toiling rivals on the far turn and into the stretch, and coasted home relatively clean by 4 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:55.51.
“I just wanted to get him back on track and I feel like today we did that,” Motion said. “This horse shows so much in the morning and it’s so frustrating to see him run disappointedly in the afternoons.”
The 4-1 third choice in a field of eight, Irish War Cry returned $10 for owner-breeder Isabelle de Tomaso. One Liner, who chased in second most of the way, finished in a dead heat for second with Untrapped. They were followed by Discreet Lover, Rated R Superstar, Afleet Willy, Hedge Fund, and 5-2 favorite Something Awesome, who was eased late.
A 9-2 chance in the Kentucky Derby last year following wins in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Holy Bull (G2), Irish War Cry broke into rivals at the start, raced close to the pace and was in a prime threatening position at the top of the stretch, but suddenly wilted late over an inside-favoring track and finished 10th over a wet track.
“I really always thought he would handle [the off track],” Motion said. “He trains great on it in the mornings.”
Since the Belmont, Irish War Cry had finished fourth in the Haskell Invitational (G1), named in honor Tomaso’s father, eighth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), then second in the Hal’s Hope (G3) to kick off his four-year-old campaign. However, the chestnut trailed a field of six by more than 29 lengths in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) when last seen in March 31.
“He really did get the thumps last time. I really think the hot, humid weather at Gulfstream doesn’t agree with him. He’s run his two poorest races there,” said Motion, referring also to the 2017 Fountain of Youth (G2) in which he finished a well-beaten seventh.
Motion said he has no immediate plans for Irish War Cry, who now boasts a line of 12-5-2-0, $1,252,060.
Out of the Polish Numbers mare Irish Sovereign, Irish War Cry is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Irish Strait and the stakes-placed Irish Politics.