Multiple Grade 2 winner Irish War Cry breezed six furlongs in 1:14 over the fast dirt at Fair Hill Training Center on Sunday in readiness for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) scheduled for July 30 at Monmouth Park.
The Isabelle de Tomaso homebred worked in company with fellow Graham Motion trainee Ascend, who covered the same distance in the same time in his third move since capturing the Manhattan Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 10.
“I was very pleased with them. They went a nice three-quarters on the dirt and did it how I wanted them to do it,” Motion said. “When you’ve got horses like that, it’s always a little bit hard to match them up, especially with a three-year-old, I think. (Irish War Cry) had breezed with Painter’s Rags the last two weeks but I felt like for a more serious work I thought it was a little unfair on Painter’s Rags to keep breezing them together.
“I had breezed Ascend and him together before and Ascend breezes very well on the dirt so it just seemed like a logical combination,” he added. “I don’t always breeze three-year-olds with older horses but obviously he’s a bit of an exception, you know?”
Like Ascend, Irish War Cry recorded his third work since June 10 when he finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) after leading throughout the 1 1/2-mile classic. Before that, the chestnut son of Curlin was a subpar 10th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) following a 3 1/2-length score in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2).
Irish War Cry also captured the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) to kick off his sophomore campaign on February 4 at Gulfstream Park.
“I’ve been very happy with him. He really hasn’t missed a beat,” Motion said. “He had an easy half three weeks after the Belmont and then we stepped it up the last couple of weekends. I’m pretty happy with how he’s done, really.”
While Irish War Cry is firm for the Haskell, Motion is mulling whether to send Ascend to the $250,000 Bowling Green Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on July 29 or wait for the $1 million Arlington Million (G1) at Arlington Park on August 12. The Candy Ride gelding is currently riding a three-race win streak that also includes the Henry S. Clark Stakes that began his five-year-old season on April 22 at Laurel Park.
“The nice thing about the Bowling Green is that if he ran well he could come back and run in the Sword Dancer. I’m kind of weighing the options there,” Motion said. “Ascend has done well. He’s just a very easy horse to be around. Both horses are, really. They’re both very straightforward.”
The $1 million Sward Dancer (G1) also takes place at Saratoga, sending runners 1 1/2 miles on the turf August 26.
Irish War Cry’s five-year-old half-brother, another Isabelle de Tomaso homebred named Irish Strait, finished fourth behind Ascend in the Henry S. Clark Stakes before conquering the Red Bank Stakes (G3) last out at Monmouth on May 27.
Irish Strait worked over Fair Hill’s all-weather training surface on Saturday, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.20. The English Channel gelding is targeting the $100,000 Monmouth Cup (G2) on the Haskell undercard.
Motion added that Painter’s Rags, unraced since February 3 after having a knee chip removed, return in the $75,000 Concern Stakes on July 22 at Laurel Park. The twice-raced sophomore son of Union Rags covered five furlongs on Fair Hill’s all-weather training track Sunday in 1:02.40.