In the aftermath of ‘TDN Rising Star’ Irish War Cry (Curlin)’s decisive 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s GII Lambholm South Holy Bull S., trainer Graham Motion reported that the New Jersey-bred sophomore will likely remain in South Florida for the duration of the winter. According to Motion, the Isabelle de Tomaso homebred could compete in the GII Fountain of Youth S. Mar. 4, the GI Florida Derby Apr. 1, or both Gulfstream fixtures en-route to a potential start in the May 6 GI Kentucky Derby. Irish War Cry earned 10 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate for his win Saturday.
“We have to decide if we run in both races down here and how we go about it,” Motion said Sunday morning. “I think there is a good shot that he will do both. I guess we’ll see how things go. I just feel like I’ve thrown a lot at this horse in a short period of time, and that is the only reason that I have some reservations about both races. But we’ll keep him in Florida because it makes sense. We’re not going to get too clever about it and I see no reason to go anywhere else.”
Irish War Cry is undefeated in three starts, having earned his ‘Rising Star’ badge with a rallying debut victory at Laurel Nov. 11 and following that effort up with a gritty wire-to-wire score in that venue’s seven-furlong Marylander S. Dec. 31. Adding Lasix for his first try around two turns Saturday, the chestnut soundly defeated John Oxley’s Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile), recently crowed champion juvenile male of 2016.
“You always hope you can win, but you don’t necessarily expect to win like that, especially when you’re running against the 2-year-old champion,” Motion added.
As for Classic Empire, trainer Mark Casse made no excuses for his colt’s third-place finish in the Holy Bull Sunday morning. Left 8 3/4 lengths in the wake of Irish War Cry after being put to a drive early on the far turn, the bay appeared no worse for the wear the next morning.
“He’s fine,” Casse said. “[Saturday] morning, he was as happy and good as I’ve ever seen him. He just did not take the trip [from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream] well. He’s run in the Bashford Manor with the crowd and the lights, and we flew him to the Breeders’ Cup, and those things didn’t bother him, but yesterday was the first time he ever had to ship and run [in the same day]. He’s shipped all the time and never fretted before, but yesterday he really fretted. I don’t know what was going on with him. Yesterday was also the first time I ever saw him balk about going into the gate. This horse wasn’t happy yesterday, and we really don’t have a good answer. He ate [Saturday] night. He’s happy as he can be now, standing in his stall.”
Classic Empire became noticeably washy in the post parade and hesitated to approach the starting gate for the Holy Bull as others loaded dutifully. While Irish War Cry will remain in South Florida, Casse said he will likely employ a different strategy for Classic Empire’s next race.
“I would say more than likely you won’t see him back at Gulfstream again,” he said. “We’re already thinking about where we want to go, but wherever it is it will be somewhere he will train a little bit there before he runs. Yesterday came as a complete surprise to us, but the battle is far from over.”