Big Weekend of Racing at Gulfstream featuring Irish War Cry
Isabelle de Tomaso’s Irish War Cry is scheduled to make his 2018 debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park, where the multiple graded-stakes winner registered a scintillating triumph in the Holy Bull (G2) last year.
“It’s a very logical place to bring him back,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Someone said to me, ‘Well, he loves Gulfstream.’ I said, ‘He also may have run his worst race at Gulfstream.”
After setting the pace and scoring a 3 ½-length victory over Gunnevera and Classic Empire in the $350,000 Holy Bull to remain undefeated in three career starts, Irish War Cry mystified Motion and the bettors who made him their even-money favorite by finishing seventh in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2).
“I have no idea [about the poor performance]. I wish I could explain any of his poor races, but I can’t,” Motion said.
Irish War Cry rebounded from his first loss to capture the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct by two lengths, but the New Jersey-bred colt weakened after stalking the pace to finish 10th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The son of Curlin came back to finish second behind Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes (G1) before completing his 3-year-old season with a fourth-place finish in the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth and a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx.
“It’s a little bit hard to tell what track he likes, but I think the mile [of the Hal’s Hope] is very good for him and he won on that track before,” Motion said. “I’m not sure he wants to go a mile and a half and a mile and a quarter, like we tried to run him last year. His family tends to be miler, shorter distance types. So I think there’s a chance you could see him doing this the rest of the year.”
Irish War Cry has produced strong six-furlong workouts in the last three workouts in a series of eight breezes at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite facility in Palm Beach County.
“I’ve been very happy with him. He’s always been a good work horse, so it’s not a surprise that he’s working well,” Motion said. “I’ve been very happy how he’s done since he’s had his little break.”
Irish War Cry has also impressed his trainer with his physical appearance.
“He’s grown up physically. He’s a bigger, stronger, more mature horse this year,” Motion said. “His family improves from 3 to 4.”
Irish War Cry, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz for the first time Saturday, demonstrated versatility during his 3-year-old campaign.
“I’ll leave it up to Jose. He’s worked him the past month or so. I think he has a good handle on him. I wanted to give him a chance to get to know him and give him confidence in him. I’ll leave it up to Jose,” Motion said. “I think he’s a horse you can do just about anything with on any given day.”
Irish War Cry is scheduled to face seven rivals, including the Todd Pletcher-trained graded-stakes winners Malagacy and Send It In.
Sumaya U.S. Stables’ Malagacy returned from a nine-month layoff to finish second behind Extravagant Kid in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance race at Gulfstream Jan. 18.
“I expect him to benefit from the race. He’s come back with some good breezes since then,” Pletcher said. “I think he’ll benefit from the little stretch-out.”
The 4-year-old son of Shackleford became a hot Triple Crown prospect last year by winning his debut by 15 lengths and an optional claiming allowance by seven lengths before capturing the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn by two lengths. Malagacy went to the sidelines, however, after a fifth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Paul Pompa Jr.’s Send It In has been idle since capturing the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct April 8.
“If he can repeat that 119 Beyer Figure he had last time, that’d be alright,” Pletcher said.
The New York-bred 6-year-old gelding has won nine of 17 career starts, including three two-turn stakes.
“He hasn’t been out in a while. A mile is probably a tick short of his absolute best, but he has won going the one-turn mile before,” Pletcher said. “We need to get him started somewhere.”
Javier Castellano has the mount aboard Malagacy, while John Velazquez is set to ride Send It In.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Economic Model is also slated to make his 2018 debut in the Hal’s Hope.
Grade 1 stakes-placed as a 3-year-old in 2016, the Chad Brown-trained 5-year-old son of Flatter broke through with a victory in his fourth 2017 start in an optional claiming allowance at Belmont Oct. 12 before getting a break.
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount.
Daniel Hurtak’s Conquest Big E., who finished second behind Tommy Macho in the Feb. 9 Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream; Mossarosa’s Giuseppe the Great, who finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby; Thomas Van Meter II and Scott Dilworth’s Tower of Texas, a multiple graded-stakes winner on turf; and Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Quijote, a stakes winner over the Gulfstream track; round out the field.
Gulfstream Hosting PDJF Day Saturday, Feb. 24
In addition to a 13-race program highlighted by the $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) and $75,000 Texas Glitter, Gulfstream Park will host a day to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Fans are encouraged to come out and support the PDJF, which provides financial assistance to some 60 jockeys who have been catastrophically injured on the racetrack. Founded in 2006, the organization has distributed more than $7 million to the former riders, most of whom have suffered paralysis or brain injuries.
From 1 to 4 p.m. on the track apron north of the winner’s circle, fans can have a picture taken with their favorite jockeys for a $5 donation. They will also receive a free Gulfstream Park picture frame with the purchase of a program or Daily Racing Form, while supplies last.
In addition, retired Hall of Fame jockeys Angel Cordero Jr. and Jose Santos will appear during Saturday’s weekly Breakfast at Gulfstream program, which runs from 8:30 to 10 a.m.
March X Press Seeks Second Stakes Win in Sunday’s $75,000 Melody of Colors
Golconda Stables’ March X Press, unraced since rallying to be second while facing males in the Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes Nov. 4 at Del Mar, goes after her second career stakes victory in Sunday’s $75,000 Melody of Colors.
The five-furlong Melody of Colors going five furlongs on the grass attracted a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, highlighting a 13-race program that begins at noon.
By 2012 champion 2-year-old male Shanghai Bobby, March X Press has been training steadily at Palm Beach Downs for her sophomore debut since returning from California, where she trailed all but one horse in a field of 11 before her wide rally came up two lengths short last out.
Fourth in the Natalma (G1) in her prior start over the Woodbine turf, March X Press came from dead last to capture her unveiling against fellow New York-breds before winning the 5 ½-furlong Bolton Landing Stakes two weeks apart last summer at Saratoga.
“We sort of came down here after the race at Del Mar with this as our first target of the year. We freshened her up a bit and have been pointing for this all along. She’s trained very well and we’re looking forward to getting her going again,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She was very impressive in her first two races and I thought she ran OK at Woodbine and didn’t run badly in an open race against colts. All in all, I think she’s made a good account of herself in all of her starts.”
Jose Ortiz, up for each of her three previous starts on the East Coast, rides March X Press from Post 3 at topweight of 120 pounds.
“She’s historically not super quick away from the gate. Hopefully she breaks well enough that she puts herself in contention going five-eighths, which might be just a tick short of her best,” Pletcher said. “We’ll hope for the best. You’ve got to work out a good trip and hopefully she breaks sharply enough to put herself in a tactical position.”
Pletcher, on course to extend his unprecedented Championship Meet-leading streak to 15 straight years, also supplemented Robyn Thompson’s homebred Treasure of Gold to the Melody of Colors. A bay daughter of Grade 1 turf winner Treasure Beach, she is making just her second lifetime start following a one-length score over Gulfstream’s grass course last July.
“She broke her maiden at Gulfstream in her only start and we had to give her a little time off that. We were actually kind of looking for some sort of allowance race to bring her back in but it didn’t work out,” Pletcher said. “We figured she broke her maiden going five-eighths on the grass here, she’s ready to run and we need to get going, so we’re going to give this a try.”
Treasure of Gold will carry 116 pounds including jockey Tyler Gaffalione from Post 2.
Also entered are Crazy for Sofia, seventh in the Ginger Brew Jan. 6 at Gulfstream; Mrs. Ramona G and Picara, second and fourth, respectively, in an off-the-turf allowance Jan. 10; Roses in the South, coming off a five-furlong turf sprint Jan. 15; and Cosita Rica.
Clouded Judgement Can Continue Progression in $75,000 Texas Glitter
Roddy Harrison’s homebred Clouded Judgement, having shown marked improvement since being switched to the turf last fall, steps up into stakes company for the first time in Saturday’s $75,000 Texas Glitter.
A gelded son of Awesome Patriot out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Cee, Clouded Judgement drew outside Post 8 in the Texas Glitter for 3-year-olds going five furlongs on the grass. Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, 13 shy of 7,000 career wins, will be aboard.
Based in Maryland with trainer Lacey Gaudet, Clouded Judgement enters the Texas Glitter not having raced since a 2 ¾-length maiden special weight win Nov. 17 over Laurel Park’s world-class turf course. He was entered in a five-furlong allowance Dec. 17 at Gulfstream Park but forced to scratch after spiking a fever the morning of the race.
Reed Kan and Bourbon Currency finished first and second, respectively, in that race, and return as the second and third choices on the morning line in the Texas Glitter behind 2-1 program favorite Barbarossa.
Gaudet left Clouded Judgement with trainer Ralph Nicks’ string at Gulfstream, where he breezed five furlongs in 1:01.72 over the turf course Feb. 11. He came back with a three-furlong blowout in 37.09 seconds Monday over the main track.
“He’s been training great down there, he’s been eating well, he looks great,” Gaudet said. “When I was in town a week or two ago I got to see him and he looks like he’s actually grown a little bit and put on some good weight and looks fabulous. They’ve done a fantastic job. They’ll definitely have to get most of the credit for this one. They’ve been a big help in accommodating us and him down there.
“We’re lucky that Gulfstream allows you to get over the turf course when you’re nominated for the stake and he looked like he worked great over it,” she added. “Prado was aboard and he said the same thing. He’s an average work horse on the dirt, and I told Prado I’d like him to feel him on the grass and he said, ‘You’re right. He’s a different horse on the grass.’ It seems like it’s definitely been a good surface for him.”
Clouded Judgement debuted running second by less than a length to well-regarded V.I.P. Code last summer at Laurel and raced twice more over the dirt with a third place finish before Gaudet and Harrison decided to try the turf. In his grass debut, the gray or roan gelding came with a five-wide move to be second.
“The reason why we mainly tried him on the grass was because the owner thought there was going to be a distance limitation, so we were looking at strictly a horse that could go five, 5 ½ furlongs,” Gaudet said. “He always trained better in the morning so he suggested trying him on the grass.
“I always think that you should definitely try horses on it before you start dropping horses or anything like that,” she added. “He ran huge first time on the grass. Jevian Toledo was on him for all of his morning workouts, all of his dirt races, and when he came back after the turf race he said he was a different horse on the grass. He just grabbed the bit and all he was about was running on the turf.”
In the latest edition of “Blew’s Clue’s,” Gulfstream Park host and analyst Jason Blewitt catches up with Ralph Nicks, trainer of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner and Champion 2-year-old filly Caledonia Road.
Nicks discusses winning his first Breeders’ Cup with friend and jockey Mike Smith and the immediate plans for Caledonia Road, assisting Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott while working with champions Cigar and Paradise Creek, and his decision to participate in Gulfstream’s year-round program.