Trainer Graham Motion was a bit surprised hear Irish Strait is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in Wednesday's $400,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs. But the 5-year-old gelding is arguably the most consistent horse in the field of eight, especially on the turf. The son of turf champion English Channel won Monmouth Park's Grade 3 Red Bank two races ago at 9-1 and was second in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes.
Irish Straight is out of the same mare (Irish Sovereign) as Irish War Cry, the 2017 Wood Memorial winner who was second in the Belmont Stakes after finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby. Irish War Cry was sired by Curlin, who like English Channel is a son of Smart Strike. Both horses are owned by Isabelle De Tomaso. Of course, Irish Sovereign has made only about one-quarter of what his kid brother has earned in the lucrative 3-year-old dirt races.
“Maybe Irish War Cry is going to be a grass horse, I don't know,” Motion said by phone. “They are very similar types, actually, have very similar characteristics. This horse has just gotten much better as he's gotten older. This year he's just been a different horse than last year. His races this year, every time he's run he's been very competitive.”
As a New Jersey-bred, Irish Straight is competing for $200,000 rather than the full $400,000 available to Kentucky-born horses. But, said Motion, “$200,000 is still a nice purse. He could have run for $100,000 at Philadelphia Park next weekend.”
Motion also has Boreale in the $150,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares who have not won a stakes in 2017. While Boreale ran her first two seasons in France, she is Kentucky-bred and therefore competes for the entire pot. In two U.S. starts for West Point Thoroughbreds, the 4-year-old filly won a Delaware allowance race and was third in a $75,000 stakes in West Virginia.
“If the grass is a little softer, I don't think that's going to hurt her,” Motion said.
Motion's horses shipped Thursday night from his Maryland base. The next morning, after six inches of rain hit the area, Kentucky Downs postponed Saturday's opening card to Wednesday. Because the two horses need to train, Motion flew an assistant trainer to Kentucky Downs Saturday with hopes of training Sunday morning.
“Obviously it's not ideal, but I understand the situation,” he said in a text. “Certainly it complicates the training/routine for us.”
One of the biggest stars in Motion's stable will run this coming Saturday at Kentucky Downs, with Miss Temple City — who beat boys last year to sweep Keeneland's Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile and $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile — running in the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, a mile stakes enjoying its first time as a Grade 3 race. The 5-year-old mare could ship from Maryland Wednesday.
Miss Temple City certainly is used to unusual race courses, let alone traveling, having competed the past three summers at England's famed Royal Ascot meet, with a pair of fourths. The $1.4 million-earner was 13th this June at Ascot, her first start in almost six months, then six weeks later was third in Monmouth's Grade 3 Matchmaker.
“We just had kind of a screwed-up schedule this year, and we're just trying to get her back on track,” Motion said. “We were really disappointed with her last race at Monmouth. But this race just ties in really well with Keeneland. We know how much she likes Keeneland, so that's where we'd like to end up.”
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