Previously undefeated Irish War Cry, who won the Holy Bull in impressive fashion, appeared well Sunday morning following his disappointing seventh-place finish as the even-money favorite in the Fountain of Youth, trainer Graham Motion said.
“Really, he seems fine. I have no issues with him,” he said. “He seemed to cool out fine and he looked good this morning. It's a real head-scratcher.”
Able to get away on an uncontested lead in his front-running Holy Bull triumph, Isabelle de Tomaso's New Jersey homebred sat behind multiple stakes-winning pacesetter Three Rules through fractions of 23.43 seconds for the quarter-mile, 47.18 for a half and 1:12.37 for six furlongs under jockey Joel Rosario before fading on the turn for home.
The chestnut son of Hall of Famer Curlin, who won twice at Laurel Park as a 2-year-old including the Marylander Stakes, wound up seven lengths behind 191-1 long shot Quinientos, beaten a total of 21 ¾ lengths.
“The one thing I blame myself for perhaps is not telling Joel he should have taken a hold of him and taken him back. I think to compete in these races, at some point you've got to be able to be adaptable to different scenarios. This horse, if he's going to compete at this level, he's got to be able to relax,” Motion said. “I think it was a combination of maybe laying a little too close to a pretty good pace on what was a drying-out, cuppy racetrack and maybe just regressing off his last race when he ran such a big race.”
Motion said he hadn't initially targeted the Fountain of Youth following the Holy Bull but the way Irish War Cry had done in the four weeks since convinced him to take a shot rather than wait for the Florida Derby.
“I certainly considered not running him yesterday,” Motion said. “From a handicapping point of view, he jumped so far forward in the Holy Bull there was every opportunity he was going to regress in this race but I felt that his regression would still be good enough to be very competitive, and he certainly trained so well I had no reason to think that he couldn't run on Saturday. He was in such great form in everything he'd done since the Holy Bull.
“It's easy to be an armchair quarterback the next day and second-guess your decisions,” he added. “The good thing is right now he seems to be in good shape.”
Motion did not rule out the Florida Derby but hinted he was more likely to give Irish War Cry more time heading into his next start.
“I've got to sit on him for a couple of weeks and see where we're at. My instant gut reaction is I would have a hard time running this horse back in four weeks off of that kind of a race,” he said. “I don't want to make a hasty decision. Whatever the decision, he's not going anywhere for a couple of weeks. I'll keep him down here while we try to figure out the next step.”
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