Isabelle de Tomaso's multiple graded-stakes winner Irish War Cry breezed five furlongs Saturday morning in anticipation of his next expected start in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) Friday, May 18 at legendary Pimlico Race Course.
Working on his own, Irish War Cry was timed in 1:02.48 over the main track at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., the second-fastest of eight horses at the distance. It was his second breeze since finishing sixth in the Gulfstream Park Hardacre Mile (G2) March 31.
“We had some rain overnight and it was kind of a heavy track. I was very happy with him,” Motion said. “He's nominated to the Westchester in New York next weekend, but I'm probably going to run him in the Special. That's what I'm leaning toward.”
Motion said Irish War Cry exited his last race with the thumps, an electrolyte imbalance that was also discovered following his off-the-board finish as the favorite in last year's Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream.
“He came down with the thumps after the race which can be quite debilitating to them,” Motion said. “He's done it twice in Florida when it's been so hot and humid. I'm just hoping the weather kind of stays on the cool side through [Preakness] weekend. He's been absolutely fine since we got him back to Fair Hill.”
The one-mile Westchester (G3) is May 5 at Belmont Park. In addition to giving Irish War Cry more time and distance waiting for the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special, Motion said the prestige of the race and venue also plays into the decision. Pimlico's Preakness Meet runs May 10-28.
The Pimlico Special was created in 1937 by Alfred Vanderbilt, the master of Sagamore Farm, as the first major stakes in the United States and set up as an invitational. War Admiral, carrying 128 pounds as a 3-year-old, won the inaugural running, then was upset by Seabiscuit the following year in what was termed the “Race of the Century” by Sports Illustrated.
Revived in 1988, the Pimlico Special's roster of winners include Triple Crown champions Whirlaway, Citation and Assault and modern-day Horses of the Year Criminal Type, Cigar, Skip Away, Mineshaft and Invasor.
“I like running in Maryland,” Motion said. “I try to run horses over those two weeks and I like running at Pimlico. Plus [jockey] Jose [Ortiz] would be able to ride him also, so there's quite a lot of reasons.”
Irish War Cry was among the Pimlico-bound stakes horses on Saturday's work tab for Motion. Thewayiam, winner of the Ginger Brew, Sweetest Chant (G3) and Herecomesthebride (G3) this winter at Gulfstream, breezed an easy half-mile in 50.40 seconds for the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes May 18. It was her first work since finishing second behind Rushing Fall in the Appalachian (G2) April 8 at Keeneland.
“She worked on her own. She just had a real easy go of it today because she's very fit and I don't think she needs to do very much,” Motion said. “She's gotten phenomenal. I call her the Energizer bunny, she's so consistent. She ran a huge race at Keeneland and I am constantly impressed by her. We've had the Hilltop circled for her.”
Almond Roca, a maiden winner on the grass at Laurel Park last fall who went on to take back-to-back dirt sprint stakes this winter at Tampa Bay Downs, worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 Saturday in company with multiple graded-stakes placed Berned.
Sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Florida Oaks (G3) on the grass March 10, Almond Roca is being pointed to the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs May 18.
“We're taking our time with her and have kind of circled that spot for her,” Motion said. “She won two stakes at Tampa and then I stretched her out in the Oaks, but we'll shorten her up for the Miss Preakness. I think three-quarters, seven-eighths is probably going to be her thing. It was probably a little bit of a crazy experiment in the Oaks but she did break her maiden on the grass and I just thought she was stabled there and it was a good opportunity to try and go two turns. I thought she ran OK, but I don't think she's going to be as effective going two turns.”
Maryland-bred Just Howard, whose victory in the Commonwealth Derby (G3) last fall marked his third consecutive Laurel stakes win following the Caveat and Find Stakes, and Grade 1-winning millionaire Ring Weekend are both possible for the $250,000 Dixie (G2) May 19 on the undercard of the 143rd Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Skeedattle Associates homebred Just Howard ended 2017 finishing off the board in the Twilight Derby (G2) and Hollywood Derby (G1) last fall in southern California. He has been working steadily for his 2018 debut, including a six-furlong breeze in 1:16.20 over Fair Hill's all-weather surface Friday.
Ring Weekend, who captured his 7-year-old debut in a Feb. 11 allowance at Gulfstream, finished seventh as the favorite in the Henry S. Clark April 21 at Laurel. Fifth in the 2014 Preakness, the Tapit gelding was second in the 1 1/16-mile Dixie in 2016 and 10th last year.
“Just Howard is coming off a layoff. We wanted to give him a break. He did quite a lot of traveling and we kind of threw him in the deep end with his races in California. But, he's doing well,” Motion said. “Ring Weekend was a little bit of a head-scratcher. I don't think he had the best trip, to be honest, and it seems like it's really hard to make up that much ground on that turf course at Laurel.”
Also working Saturday for Motion were multiple graded-stakes winner Messi, who went five furlongs in 1:10.80, and Grade 2 winner Untamed Domain, clocked in 1:13 for six furlongs, both over the all-weather surface.
Motion said he has no start picked out for Messi, unraced since finishing sixth in the Red Smith Handicap (G3) Nov. 11, while 3-year-old Untamed Domain will run next in the 1 1/16-mile American Turf (G2) May 5 at Churchill Downs.
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