Isabelle de Tomaso’s New Jersey homebred Irish War Cry made his presence on the Triple Crown trail well known on Saturday with an impressive wire-to-wire score in the $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park. The Graham Motion-trained chestnut was ridden to victory by Joel Rosario and crossed the wire 3 ¾ lengths in front of Gunnevera and five other rivals in the 1 1/16-mile main track feature.
After breaking alertly from the gate, Rosario guided Irish War Cry immediately to the front and well off the rail, where they set all of the pace in splits of :24.14, :47.92, and 1:11.87. Gunnevera challenged briefly at the head of the lane, but Irish War Cry quickly turned him back and, after ducking in slightly just as he passed the sixtheenth pole in 1:36.37, drew away to victory, stopping the clock in 1:42.52 over a fast surface.
“I had a good trip,” Rosario said. “He broke sharp, very nice, and he decided he wanted to go on and I just let him be happy where he was. He ran a big race.”
Following Gunnevera under the wire was top 2-year-old and 1-2 favorite Classic Empire, Talk Logistics, Cavil and Perro Rojo. Shamsaan was eased before the wire but walked off under his own power. Fact Finding and Fire for Effect were scratched.
At odds of nearly 9-2, Irish War Cry returned $10.80, $4 and $2.20. Gunnevera paid $4 and $2.20 at odds of 3-1 and completed the $36 exacta. Classic Empire was good for $2.10 and the $1 trifecta was worth $32.50.
“There’s nothing quite like being involved in these 3-year-old races,” Motion said. “It’s a great atmosphere here today. It’s what we all like to do, it’s pretty exciting.
“He’s a really nice horse and I was obviously really high on him, but when you’re running against the juvenile champion you have reservations. I was torn. I was toying with the idea of running the Sam Davis [at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11]. I thought it might be a little easier race because he’s so lightly raced, but the more I looked at it, the way he was working, I just thought we had to take a shot today.”
Trainer Mark Casse offered no excuses for Classic Empire’s average performance and jockey Julien Leparoux only said the colt ran fine after getting a little overheated in the post parade.
Irish War Cry is a son of Curlin and the Polish Numbers mare Irish Sovereign. His breeder is the daughter of Avery Haskell, the man for whom the Haskell Stakes (GI) is named and knows a bit about horsepower as her late husband was a champion Formula One racecar driver from Argentina who was also a car manufacturer. Irish War Cry is her first stakes winner.
With his first stakes win and the $212,660 lion’s share of the Holy Bull purse, Irish War Cry bumped his career earnings to $295,460 and he remains undefeated in three starts.
Motion indicated he’ll get the colt back to the barn before deciding on a next race.