Seven Kentucky Derby Horses in Seven Days: Irish War Cry
Graham Motion saddled the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, who rolled home to a powerful tally, and the English-born conditioner is well represented this year with Wood Memorial (G2) star Irish War Cry. A chestnut son of Curlin, the once-beaten sophomore could not have looked better dominating the Wood at Aqueduct and remains eligible to vie for favoritism in a well-matched Kentucky Derby field.
New Jersey-bred three-year-old was very impressive winning the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park three starts previously, easily defeating top contenders Gunnevera and Classic Empire. In the Wood, jockey Rajiv Maragh appeared to plenty left in the tank, looking back on numerous occasions as his mount dominated from the top of the lane to the wire. Irish War Cry registered a commendable 102 BRIS Speed Rating, the same number he garnered in the Holy Bull.
Supporters of the Isabelle de Tomaso homebred could make an overwhelming case if not for a hiccup, and a major one at that, when beaten more than 20 lengths in seventh as the Fountain of Youth (G2) favorite two back. The headstrong sophomore appeared much more relaxed last time and owns the pedigree for 10 furlongs. With speed, class, bloodlines and the right connections, Irish War Cry is as legitimate as they come in 2017.
And if Irish War Cry wins the Derby, it would cap a remarkable comeback for Maragh, who suffered nine fractures of the spine, broken ribs and collapsed lungs during a horrific spill at Belmont last July.
My hardest decision comes with this colt. His stinker in the Fountain of Youth troubled me but his Wood romp was certainly fantastic. If Irish War Cry draws outside, I will look for him to run huge and finish inside the top three, but an inner post will crush his hopes in my opinion.