Can Irish War Cry Win the Holy Bull?

Holy-BullTo answer my own headline, yes. And, I guess, the question shouldn’t be can Irish War Cry win the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, but will he win it?

That’s a little harder to say. As I note in this week’s newsletter (sign-up for free HERE), favorites and near-favorites have performed very well in Gulfstream’s first major prep for the Kentucky Derby (if you want to know exactly how well, you’ll have to read the newsletter) and Irish War Cry is a healthy 15-1 on the morning line. But the son of Curlin definitely has some things to like.

To start with, he’s recorded the best late speed rations (my own measurement of late energy distribution; see below) in the field. And he’s done so while running both on and off the pace. That is a sign of talent.

Irish War Cry also bled in his last race (he gets Lasix on Saturday), yet still had the guts and courage to outfinish O Dionysus, who was 10 lengths clear of the third-place finisher, Undulated (winner of the Swynford Stakes and runner-up in the Laurel Futurity).

I also like the jockey switch to Joel Rosario, who has won with 20.7 percent of his mounts, while producing a 53.5-percent ROI for trainer H. Graham Motion over the past year.

On the negative side is the fact that Irish War Cry has never gone a distance of ground and was pulling in his last start at seven furlongs. This might indicate some distance issues, although his breeding suggests otherwise.



I’m also concerned about how the pace of the Holy Bull will affect Irish War Cry. I’m projecting a -10 early speed ration (ESR) for Saturday’s Gulfstream feature, which translates to about a 46-second opening half. This could be tricky for Rosario.

Many riders have a tendency to seek a certain spot, or position, in the pack rather than letting the pace of the race dictate their strategy. In my opinion, the “jock with a clock” in his/her head has gone the way of the woolly mammoth — straight into the history books.

If Rosario lets Irish War Cry settle on his own, I fear his young charge may exert too much energy in an effort to maintain a forward position early, sapping his impressive late reserve. On the other hand, being in the top flight at the first call is generally a good idea at Gulfstream Park, where 33 percent of the races at the Holy Bull distance of 1 1/16 miles have been won in wire-to-wire fashion.

In any event, I think Irish War Cry offers great value at anything close to his morning line odds.

I would — and likely will — bet on it.

Speed Rations Explained

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