December 18, 2018

Irish War Cry faces seven in Hal’s Hope return

Irish War Cry, who makes his four-year-old debut in Saturday's Hal's Hope Stakes (G3), is no stranger to winning at Gulfstream Park (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Irish War Cry makes his four-year-old debut on Saturday as part of an eight-horse field entered in the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

The son of Curlin was a major contender on the 2017 Road to the Kentucky Derby, capturing the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) before fading badly to be seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), both at Gulfstream. Trainer Graham Motion decided a change in venue was in order and shipped his charge to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial (G2), which the colt captured by 3 1/2 lengths.

That earned Irish War Cry a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate, but the chestnut could only manage a 10th placing after coming in at the start from his 17 post and bumping other runners. He skipped the Preakness Stakes (G1) but returned for the Belmont Stakes (G1), where he tried to lead all the way home but was caught on the wire and forced to settle for second.

Irish War Cry was last seen finishing eighth in the September 23 Pennsylvania Derby (G1), two months following a fourth-place run in the Haskell Invitational (G1) in late July. Jose Ortiz takes the mount for the first time as the New Jersey-bred breaks from the rail post in the Hal’s Hope.

Lining up against Irish War Cry in the Hal’s Hope will be seven rivals, including Send It In and Conquest Big E.

Send It In hasn’t been seen in competition since earning a career- and field-best 110 BRIS Speed rating for capturing the Excelsior Stakes (G3) last April 8. The Todd Pletcher-trained gelding will be racing outside of New York for the first time in this spot, but has been working at Palm Beach Downs in Florida since November. John Velazquez piloted the six-year-old bay in his last two starts and has the call Saturday.

Conquest Big E was a well-beaten sixth in his final two starts of 2017, but opened his five-year-old campaign on January 27 with a close runner-up effort in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) over track and one-mile distance. The Donna Hurtak trainee earned a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating for that effort and gets a rider switch to Luis Saez.

Giuseppe the Great also made his seasonal bow in the Hooper last out, rallying to be fourth though beaten 10 lengths on the wire. The bay four-year-old scored in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Gulfstream to close out a tough sophomore season in December. The Nick Zito charge took on the best in his division last year and managed to place in the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Nik Juarez was aboard for Giuseppe the Great’s initial two starts and reunites with the Lookin at Lucky colt, who will have blinkers added to help his chances.

Dual Canadian Grade 2 victor Tower of Texas tries dirt for the first time in this spot for trainer Roger Attfield. The Street Sense gelding competed exclusively on synthetic tracks for his first 11 starts, then moved to the turf, where he has captured four stakes including the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap over Fair Grounds’ sod on January 13. The seven-year-old also rallied for third in the December 16 Tropical Turf Stakes (G3) on Gulfstream’s grass and gets Tyler Gaffalione aboard for the first time here.

Malagacy romped in his initial three starts last year, including a two-length victory while making his stakes bow in the Rebel Stakes (G2). However, the Shackleford chestnut faded to fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in April and wouldn’t be seen in competition again until finishing second while making his four-year-old bow on January 18 in an allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream. Regular rider Javier Castellano retains the mount.

Economic Model earned his first win since June 2016 when taking an allowance/optional claimer at Belmont Park last out on October 12. The five-year-old son of Flatter is Grade 1-placed from his sophomore campaign and will be piloted by Irad Ortiz Jr. in this seasonal debut.

Quijote was well-beaten in his last two races over the track and stretches out past seven furlongs for the initial time in this spot. Emisael Jaramillo will be in the irons.