Irish War Cry re-establishes Derby credentials in Wood

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TwinSpires Staff

April 9th, 2017


OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Draped in ignominy following a discouraging seventh place finish in the Fountain Youth (G2), Irish War Cry re-established his credentials as a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender with a decisive 3 1/2-length win in the downgraded Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct on Saturday.
With only 10 Derby points to his credit before the race, the chestnut colt had to finish at least third to have a shot at the Derby, and second to ensure himself a spot. The 100 points he earned will put him near the top of the Kentucky Derby leader board, and in a Triple Crown season that has seen no horses emerge as dominant, he is likely to be among the favorites on the first Saturday in May.
The Wood was essentially a contest between two seasoned but inconsistent horses -- Mo Town and Irish War Cry, the only graded stakes winners in the field -- and two up-and-comers, Cloud Computing and Battalion Runner. Mo Town finished seventh, dashing his Kentucky Derby hopes. Runner-up Battalion Runner earned 40 Derby points, likely enough to put him in the Louisville picture, while third-place finisher Cloud Computing, who added 20 points to the 20 he earned for his second-place finish in the Gotham (G3) here last month, is also likely to have secured a spot.
Neither owner Isabelle de Tomaso nor trainer Graham Motion were on hand, but de Tomaso's great-niece Ellie Glaccum and niece Hope Jones represented the august horse-racing family in the winner's circle.
Both Glaccum, who lives in Unionville, Pennsylvania, and Jones, who lives in Queens, were making their Aqueduct debuts.
"I didn't realize how close it is," laughed Jones. "I'm coming back."
Fielding questions from a bevy of reporters, Glaccum couldn't hide hands shaking with excitement. And while she was obviously thrilled with the horse's win and the prospect of a Derby runner in the family, owner de Tomaso has her eyes on a race named for her father, down the road, both literally and figuratively.
"The Haskell is all she cares about," Glaccum said.
After having won the Holy Bull (G2) on the lead gate to wire under Joel Rosario, that jockey seemed to try to teach him to rate in the Fountain of Youth, an experiment that ended badly. In the Wood, new rider Rajiv Maragh kept the son of Curlin back of the pacesetting favorite Battalion Runner, settling initially fourth, then gradually nudging him forward, running third, and then second up the backstretch, getting on even terms with Battalion Runner heading into the stretch.
The two raced neck-and-neck until inside the sixteenth pole, when Irish War Cry drew off easily to defeat the Pletcher trainee.
"He relaxed real easily," Maragh said. "He did everything I wanted him to do without a lot of effort. He settled beautifully."
"I think it's so good that Rajiv came to the barn and has been on him the last few mornings to see how he is," Motion said. "I think the equipment change [to a figure 8 bridle] probably helped. It's extremely gratifying to get this horse back on track. I don't remember having a situation like this, when I felt so much was on the line."
That's quite a statement from a man who's run horses in the biggest races in the U.S. and abroad, and who in 2011 saddled Animal Kingdom to a win in the Kentucky Derby. Will there be more on the line in four weeks' time at Churchill Downs? Presumably, yes. But thanks to that encouraging win today, Motion will be back in Louisville, perhaps to saddle a winner in Kentucky Derby 143.

(Photo by Teresa Genaro)