Irish War Cry Takes First Spin Around Belmont Oval Thursday - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Irish War Cry Takes First Spin Around Belmont Oval Thursday

Irish War Cry gallops at Belmont June 8

Multiple Grade 2 winner Irish War Cry, the 7-2 program favorite for Saturday's 149th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, got his first tour of Belmont Park's main track on a picture perfect Thursday morning.

Joined by Graham Motion-trained stablemate Ascend, who will also race Saturday in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan, Isabelle de Tomaso's New Jersey homebred took a few turns around the paddock before stepping on to the track shortly after 7 a.m.

Irish War Cry galloped 1 ½ miles under assistant trainer Alice Clapham on his first full morning in New York since arriving early Wednesday afternoon from Motion's base at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland.

The 1 ½-mile 'Test of the Champion,' the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown, will be the first race for Irish War Cry since his 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs.

“He looked good. Everything went very smoothly,” Motion said. “He was great. Alice said he was looking around a little bit, but he's very sensible. He's not a complicated horse. He kind of takes things in stride, except for maybe Churchill where there was so much going on.

“It's a lot quieter and more settled than it was at Churchill, when it was so busy,” he added. “I think it got him a little bit wound up at Churchill with all that was going on. It's nice to be able to come into our own barn and do our own thing, and stay with the system.”

Irish War Cry, winner of the G2 Wood Memorial April 8 at Aqueduct in his only previous trip to New York, inherited the favorite's role when 2016 juvenile champion Classic Empire was declared from the race Wednesday morning by trainer Mark Casse with a foot abscess.

“It's pretty extraordinary. It's very odd, to be honest,” Motion said. “I feel bad for Mark. Everyone says to you leading up to these races, 'Are you excited?' It's hard to get excited when you know things like that can happen. That's a perfect example of what can happen, and it's just a little thing but it just throws you out. It's tough for those guys but that's the nature of the beast, and we just happened to benefit from it.”

Motion was pleased having drawn post 7 of 12 in the Belmont with regular rider Rajiv Maragh. They are flanked by Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee to his inside and long shot Senior Investment. All horses will carry 126 pounds.

“I love it. I think it's great. I wouldn't have wanted to be outside of that,” Motion said. “I had said I'd like to be [post] eight or in, so that's good. I think it's a little tougher when you're drawn on the outside here. I'm very happy with where we are. It's a good spot.”

This will be the fourth Belmont for Motion, having finished sixth with Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in 2011, eighth with Icabad Crane in 2008 and sixth with Chilito in 1998.

Irish War Cry's sire, Hall of Famer Curlin, was second to filly Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont. He is out of the Polish Numbers mare Irish Sovereign, whose three wins from 13 career starts each came at six furlongs.

“The Curlin would say the distance wouldn't be a problem, but the dam's side is a little suspect. I don't think anyone really knows,” Motion said. “Any of us are purely going on speculation or gut instinct on whether a horse can handle it or not. None of us really know.”

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