Undefeated Holy Bull (G2) winner Irish War Cry could hardly have looked better in his Saturday breeze in company at Palm Meadows, presaging another strong effort in this Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
In the course of his five-furlong move in 1:01.65, the son of Curlin relaxed behind workmate Divine Oath, easily passed him on the inside, and strode away smartly. Notice how Irish War Cry’s exercise rider, David Nava, is just keeping him on task. Compare Divine Oath, who’s coming under a ride to try to keep up with his swifter workmate.
“I think everything went as well as I could have hoped for,” trainer Graham Motion told Gulfstream publicity. “I told David just to sit off his partner a little bit for the early part. He got his first eighth in :13, picked it up, and I got him in 1:01 and change. He galloped out (six furlongs) in (1):13.
“He finished up very good. I had told David to make sure he galloped out strong. I wanted to be sure he got something out of it. I think it was about perfect, really.
“He is a really good workhorse, but I do think he can be a little lazy when he clears another horse like that. I always work him in company. I don’t think I’ve ever worked him on his own before. That would be a novelty, if I had to.”
Irish War Cry’s happiness to rate in his work is a clue that he may not be as intent on arguing the pace in the Fountain of Youth. Although he blew away his Laurel maiden foes from off the pace, he was unexpectedly aggressive early next time in the Marylander, where he duked it out on the front end and prevailed by a nose. Irish War Cry again set the pace in his Holy Bull upset, but that was also in part a function of the race shape, leaving the door open for an enterprising front runner. The scenario in the Fountain of Youth figures to be different, with other eligible pace factors including Three Rules in the projected line-up.
Also unlike the Holy Bull, Irish War Cry is no longer an unproven commodity taking on the unanimous divisional champion Classic Empire. Now he enters the Fountain of Youth as the one to beat.
“It’s going to be a little different this time,” Motion said. “We didn’t have a target on our back last time. I couldn’t believe how comfortably he beat the two-year-old champion (Classic Empire in third). That was exciting.
“This time it’s going to be a little bit different because people will have expectations, as they should. Look, I just would like to see him run a similar race. He’s doing great and I see no reason not to run in the Fountain of Youth. We’re looking forward to it.
“He has really perked up in the mornings,” the trainer said. “He was a pretty laid-back horse when we left Fair Hill in the fall. He is now a pretty sharp three-year-old colt, which is exciting to see.”