Isabelle de Tomaso's multiple Grade 2-winning homebred Irish War Cry continued preparations for his next start with a six-furlong breeze at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. Sunday morning.
Both Irish War Cry and his workmate, 5-year-old Grade 1 turf winner Ascend, went the distance in 1:14 over Fair Hill's dirt track.
“I was very pleased with them. They went a nice three-quarters on the dirt and did it how I wanted them to do it,” trainer Graham Motion said. “When you've got horses like that, it's always a little bit hard to match them up especially with a 3-year-old, I think. He had breezed with Painter's Rags the last two weeks but I felt like for a more serious work I thought it was a little unfair on Painter's Rags to keep breezing them together.
“I had breezed Ascend and him together before and Ascend breezes very well on the dirt so it just seemed like a logical combination,” he added. “I don't always breeze 3-year-olds with older horses but obviously he's a bit of an exception, you know?”
Irish War Cry opened his career with three straight wins including his only two starts at 2, a mid-November maiden victory and the seven-furlong Marylander on New Year's Eve at Laurel Park. This year he won the Holy Bull (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2), was 10th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and bounced back with a strong second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) June 10, his most recent effort.
Scheduled to make his next start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) July 30 at Monmouth Park, a Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” contest for the 2017 Classic at Del Mar, Irish War Cry has now breezed three times at Fair Hill since the Belmont.
“I've been very happy with him. He really hasn't missed a beat,” Motion said. “He had an easy half three weeks after the Belmont and then we stepped it up the last couple of weekends. I'm pretty happy with how he's done, really.”
Stone Farm and Madaket Stables' Ascend has also worked three times at Fair Hill following his 27-1 upset victory in the $1 million Manhattan (G1), one race prior to the Belmont. His previous two breezes had come over Fair Hill's all-weather surface.
Ascend has now won three straight races, taking a Keeneland allowance in his 2016 finale and opening 2017 with a half-length victory in the Henry S. Clark April 22 at Laurel in his stakes debut. From the Clark, fourth-place finisher Irish Strait – also trained by Motion – and runner-up Synchrony went on to run 1-2 in the Red Bank (G3) May 27 at Monmouth, and third-place finisher Ghost Hunter won the Arlington Handicap (G3) July 8.
Motion is deciding between bringing Ascend back in the Bowling Green (G2) July 29 at Saratoga or the Arlington Million (G1) Aug. 12. Irish Strait, another Tomaso homebred who is a 4-year-old half-brother to Irish War Cry, is being pointed to the Monmouth Stakes (G2) on the Haskell undercard.
“The nice thing about the Bowling Green is that if he ran well he could come back and run in the Sword Dancer. I'm kind of weighing the options there,” Motion said. “Ascend has done well. He's just a very easy horse to be around. Both horses are, really. They're both very straightforward.”
The 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer (G1) will be run Saturday, Aug. 26 at Saratoga.
Motion said Painter's Rags, unraced since Feb. 3 after having a knee chip removed, could make his return in the $75,000 Concern for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs July 22 at Laurel. The trainer may look at the $75,000 Find for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on grass Aug. 19 at Laurel for Just Howard, a gutsy winner of Saturday's $75,000 Caveat for 3-year-olds on the turf.
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