Isabelle de Tomaso's homebred Irish War Cry has often been a perplexing case for trainer Graham Motion, with difficult-to-explain poor performances surrounded by glimpses of serious talent. The colt was finally able to be diagnosed with the thumps, an electrolyte imbalance than can cause hiccup-like muscle spasms, especially in particularly warm or humid conditions.
Armed with that knowledge, Motion had to have been pleased when Friday's temperature in Baltimore remained in the low 60's, despite the sloppy track at Pimlico. Drawn at the rail for the G3 Pimlico Special, the 4-year-old son of Curlin broke sharply under jockey Jose Ortiz and never looked back, completing 1 3/16th miles in 1:55.51. Off at odds of 4-1, Irish War Cry crossed the wire 4 1/2 lengths ahead of One Liner and Untrapped, who finished in a dead heat for second.
“I just wanted to get him back on track and I feel like today we did that,” said Motion. “It was important to me. This horse shows so much in the morning and it's so frustrating to see him run disappointingly in the afternoons. 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 down there. I think getting the cooler air of today is like running at Aqueduct last year. It's just a different deal. It was very reassuring.
“I really always thought he would handle [the off track]. He trains great on it in the mornings. It didn't worry me at all. I kind of was hoping he would end up on the lead, but talking to Jose he thought there was a lot of speed in here. So I was kind of surprised when he jumped out and nobody went with him. I felt pretty confident down the backside.”
Race favorite at 5-2, Something Awesome finished last in the eight-horse field.
Discreet Lover hopped badly at the start, and Untrapped darted to his right from his far outside post position to kick off the Pimlico Special. Irish War Cry, meanwhile, broke very smoothly from the inside stall and immediately strode out for a one-length lead with Ortiz in the irons. Hedge Fund kept close tabs in second position, boxed between Afleet Willy on the outside and Untrapped, who had swung sharply back toward the rail, on his inside.
Irish War Cry appeared to be moving easily through fractions of :23.19 and :47.25, continuing to cruise along on the lead to mark six furlongs in 1:11.58. With no urging from his rider, Irish War Cry stretched his lead to two lengths in the far turn, changing leads into the stretch with plenty in reserve.
“The key was the distance today,” Ortiz said. “With the 1 3/16 miles, he broke well, I let him run to the first turn, took a hold of him and he got under his feet beautifully. When I asked him by the three-eighths pole, he kept going and gave me everything he had. I am glad he showed up today because he has been working really nice in the morning. I worked him all winter. He wasn't performing at Gulfstream in the winter. Today he finally ran well.”
Irish War Cry was never seriously challenged down the lane, and hit the wire 4 1/2 lengths the best of the eight-horse field. Untrapped was hard-ridden to dead heat with Hedge Fund for second, and Discreet Lover got up to finish fourth.
Bred in New Jersey by his owner, Irish War Cry is out of the Polish Numbers mare Irish Sovereign. He broke his maiden on debut, and captured the Holy Bull in his third career start. The colt then won the Wood Memorial before finishing tenth in the Kentucky Derby. Though Irish War Cry has struggled to find the winner's circle since the Wood, he now boasts a record of five wins from 12 starts, with earnings of over $1.2 million.
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