Kentucky Derby

Irish War Cry Dominates G2 Holy Bull, Eclipse Champion Classic Empire Third

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Isabella de Tomaso’s Irish War Cry remained undefeated in three starts with a dominating front-running victory in Saturday’s $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park, soundly defeating Eclipse Award champion Classic Empire and multiple graded-stakes winner Gunnevera, who finished third and second, respectively.

Trained by Graham Motion, the son of Curlin scored by 3 ¾ lengths over Gunnevera, who finished another 5 lengths ahead of Classic Empire, the 1-2 favorite in a field of 3-year-olds that was reduced to seven upon the early scratches of Fact Finding and Fire for Effect.

“There’s nothing quite like being involved in these 3-year-old races,” said Motion after Irish War Cry stamped himself as a prominent Triple Crown candidate. “It’s a great atmosphere here today. It’s what we all like to do. It’s pretty exciting.”

Classic Empire, who was making his first start since clinching the championship for the outstanding 2-year-old of 2016 with a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 5, was a little reluctant to enter the starting gate for the 1 1/16-mile and broke a step slow before quickly attaining a good stalking position under Julien Leparoux.

“He gets a little hot, but maybe hotter than normal, so I don’t know. We will regroup. He had no excuse that way, none whatsoever,” said trainer Mark Casse, whose champion had won four of five starts last season. “They kind of tried to pin him in a little bit on the first turn and Julien used a little bit of him. We had a good trip.”

The lightly raced Irish War Cry entered the Holy Bull off a pair of victories at Laurel Park, an off-the-pace 4 ½ length score in a Nov. 11 maiden race before prevailing by a nose after setting the pace in the Marylander Stakes Dec. 31.

“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 in 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.”

Sent to post at the 4-1 third betting choice, Irish War Cry broke alertly under Joel Rosario and assumed the pacesetting role into the first turn, continuing on to set fractions of 24.14 and 47.92 for a half mile. Talk Logistics tracked Irish War Cry while saving ground along the backstretch under Paco Lopez with Classic Empire to his outside. Leparoux sent Classic Empire after the pacesetter on the far turn. After a brief challenge on the turn into the homestretch, the Casse-trained colt began to weaken as Irish War Cry kicked clear by 3 ½ lengths in mid-stretch. Gunnevera, who had won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G1) in his most recent start in November, was rated just behind the pacesetters along the backstretch and kicked in to finish a clear second, well clear of Classic Empire.

Irish War Cry ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.52 and received a 97 Beyer for the effort.

“He broke very nice. I thought the favorite was going to show some speed but it looked like he didn’t come out of there well  and I came out of there very well, so I just kept hold of  my spot where I was,” Rosario said. “Actually he really kicked on again. He was in the lead and very comfortable and turning for home I asked him a little bit and he responded. I was very happy with that.”

The Holy Bull, which anchored a 12-race program with five stakes, is a key prep for the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 4 and the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on April 1 on the Road to the Triple Crown.

“I really haven’t gotten beyond today. I don’t know if I want to run in every race. It will be hard enough to run back in one of them, obviously, but we’ll figure it out,” said Motion, who saddled Animal Kingdom for a victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1).

Classic Empire had won four of five races during his championship 2-year-old season, including the Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill Downs and the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“We had a good trip. I got in the clear on the first turn and there was really no excuse. He came back good and we’ll see what happens,” Leparoux said. “He got a little bit warm but after that we a good trip and every chance and he just didn’t kick at the end.”

Gunnevera broke his maiden at Gulfstream in July before venturing to Saratoga to capture the Saratoga Special (G2). After finishing a wide fifth behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, he made a big splash in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) in November, rallying from 10th and last to score by 5 ¾ lengths.

“Unfortunately, there was no speed in the race. It didn’t set up for my horse. After [trainer] Todd Pletcher scratched [Fact Finding], everything changed,” Castellano said. “You can say I put him close to try to get him in the race, but that’s not his style. He needs to relax and make one big run. That’s best for him.”

Talk Logistics finished fourth, followed by Cavil, Perro Rojo and Shanmsaan.

$350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) Quotes

Trainer Graham Motion (Irish War Cry, 1st): “There’s nothing quite like being involved in these 3-year-old races. 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 in 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.”

“I kind of thought we’d inherit the lead. I told [jockey] Joel [Rosario] I wanted him to settle. I didn’t want to get to telling him what to do. I had a feeling we’d end up on the lead. I thought the favorite might be on the lead, but he inherited the lead and he was very confident.”

On $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2), March 4 and the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 1 as possible targets – “I really haven’t gotten beyond today. I don’t know if I want to run in every race. It will be hard enough to run back in one of them, obviously, but we’ll figure it out.”

Jockey Joel Rosario (Irish War Cry, 1st): “I had a good trip. 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.”

“Graham [Motion] is a very good trainer. He always wants to keep his horses happy and do whatever they want and that’s what I tried to do. It looked like he was happy where he was. He was cruising along nicely, and he took them all the way.”

“He broke very nice. I thought the favorite was going to show some speed but it looked like he didn’t come out of there well  and I came out of there very well, so I just kept hold of  my spot where I was.”

“Actually he really kicked on again. He was in the lead and very comfortable and turning for home I asked him a little bit and he responded. I was very happy with that.”

Trainer Antonio Sano (Gunnevera, 2nd): “I think it was a very good race. I think the last two furlongs, [jockey Javier] Castellano had a little bump but he ran good. I’m very happy with him.”

Jockey Javier Castellano (Gunnevera, 2nd): “Unfortunately, there was no speed in the race. It didn’t set up for my horse. After [trainer] Todd Pletcher scratched [Fact Finding], everything changed. You can say I put him close to try to get him in the race, but that’s not his style. He needs to relax and make one big run. That’s best for him.”

Trainer Mark Casse (Classic Empire, 3rd): “He gets a little hot, but maybe hotter than normal, so I don’t know. We will regroup. He had no excuse that way [in where he was positioned] ; none whatsoever. They kind of tried to pin him in a little bit on the first turn and [jockey] Julien [Leparoux] used a little bit of him. We had a good trip.” 

Jockey Julien Leparoux (Classic Empire, 3rd): “We had a good trip. I got in the clear on the first turn and there was really no excuse. He came back good and we’ll see what happens. He got a little bit warm [warming up] but after that we a good trip and every chance and he just didn’t kick at the end.”

Jockey Paco Lopez (Talk Logistics, 4th): “The race was unbelievable. I didn’t want to make the lead and I was there between [Irish War Cry] and [Classic Empire]. After [Irish War Cry] made the lead I put him second and the favorite was outside of me. I moved my horse and he ran pretty good. He’s still improving.”

Jockey Nik Juarez (Perro Rojo, 6th): “Going into the race, [trainer Nick] Zito and I were happy with how the horse was working. I wasn’t disappointed with how he ran today. I have a better feel for him after today and I think we’re going to change a few tactics on him next time. We expect some good things out of this horse.”

Gulfstream’s Total Handle on Holy Bull Day Nearly $20 Million

One week after establishing an all-time record for total handle of $40.2 million, Gulfstream Park’s 12-race Holy Bull program Saturday handled $19.775 million.

It was a record handle on Holy Bull Day, topping the previous mark of $17 million last year.

Saturday’s Holy Bull program included five stakes races including the $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2), won by Irish War Cry. Eclipse champion Classic Empire finished third in his 3-year-old debut.

“We’re extremely grateful to our fans and horsemen from throughout North America for making this a memorable day of racing,” said P.J. Campo, Vice President of Racing for The Stronach Group and General Manager of Gulfstream Park. “The past three weekends at Gulfstream have been extraordinary, from the Sunshine Millions and Eclipse Awards to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational to the Lambholm South Holy Bull. We’ve had great racing and tremendous performances from our stars on the track. We’re looking forward to the rest of the Championship Meet.”

Source: Gulfstream Park

To Top