Irish War Cry, the 5-2 favorite in Saturday’s 149th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1), and Meantime, who pressed the public’s choice in the 1 1/2-mile contest, both exited the third jewel of the Triple Crown in good order, according to their connections.
Irish War Cry attempted to lead all the way home in the “Test of the Champion,” setting the pace with Meantime drafting off his flank to the outside. Though he managed to shake loose from Meantime, the chestnut son of Curlin could not hold off Tapwrit, who collared Irish War Cry in the lane and pulled off for the two-length score.
“I’m pretty happy with him. He was a little stirred up last night after the race, I think just from the commotion and having a hard race,” trainer Graham Motion said of Irish War Cry. “It took him a while to cool out. I was actually pleasantly surprised that he ate up last night. I wouldn’t have expected him to. He seemed good. ”
Motion reported Sunday morning that Irish War Cry would head back to his home base of Fair Hill Training Center in Elkhorn, Maryland, on Monday to begin preparations for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on August 30.
“I wanted to just give him a day to get over it,” Motion said. “He’ll leave tomorrow morning and head back to Fair Hill, then we can get him back out in his round pen and kind of rest him up and get him ready for the Haskell. That’s definitely what we’d like to do, so fingers crossed, that’s where we’ll be.”
Irish War Cry is campaigned by his breeder, Isabelle de Tomaso, who is the daughter of Amory L. Haskell, the founder of Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. That track’s signature race, the Haskell Invitational for three-year-olds, is named after him, so it’s only fitting that Irish War Cry is now targeting the nine-furlong contest.
The New Jersey-bred colt captured his initial two starts in Maryland at Laurel Park, including the Marylander Stakes, and traveled south to Gulfstream Park in Florida to take his sophomore debut, the Holy Bull Stakes (G2), before suffering his first loss when seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Irish War Cry shipped back north and next out added a 3 1/2-length victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct to his resume.
The colt did not do so well in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last out, breaking in and causing trouble for a number of runners. He settled into the four path down the backstretch and weakened in the lane to be 10th under the Churchill Downs wire.
“I think he ran the hardest race he’s run,” Motion said of Irish War Cry’s effort in the Belmont. “When he won those races, he kind of won for fun except perhaps the race at Laurel where he had to run really hard. The Holy Bull and the Wood were relatively comfortable wins for him. Yesterday he really had to lay it down and I was very proud of him.”
Trainer Brian Lynch had expected his pupil Meantime to set the pace in the Belmont and was surprised when Irish War Cry rushed up to take command.
“I tipped my hat to Irish War Cry; he hung in there tough,” Lynch said. “We ended up pressing him.
“(Meantime) seemed to come out of it fine,” the conditioner said Sunday morning. “He got himself a little bit wound up and excited before the race and used up a bit of energy. He’s probably a bit suspect at the distance. Other than that, he looks like he’s in good shape.”
While Irish War Cry is destined for the Haskell, a vacation is in Meantime’s future. The chestnut son of Shackleford has run five times since mid-February, including a pair of maidens in April and a runner-up effort in the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) on May 13 at Belmont Park.
“It was a big test for him in his fifth start, so I’ll let him get some (rest) and regroup,” Lynch said. “I haven’t got anything on the horizon yet.”