Holy Bull victor Irish War Cry enters Derby fray

February 08, 2017 10:23 AM

The calendar says February and that means the nation’s top three-year olds are being readied for the “Road to the Derby.” Keeping in mind how difficult it is for a good two-year old to hold form into their sophomore season, racing fans were given a not so subtle reminder of that fact in last weekend’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Going off as the odds-on favorite (1-2), Classic Empire, the nation’s Two-Year old Horse of the Year and Breeders Cup Juvenile winner, looked flat in his three-year old debut when he finished a distant third behind the winner. While Trainer Mark Casse and Jockey Julian Leparoux offered no excuses for the colt’s performance, or lack of, things obviously didn’t go as planned. Classic Empire got hot in the paddock, even hotter in the post parade and just never seemed comfortable at anytime during the race. Given Casse’s prowess with comebackers, this bad performance opens the Derby door for others.

One of those three-year olds that seems to have taken a major step forward would be the Holy Bull winner Irish War Cry. Owned by Isabelle de Tomaso and trained by Graham Motion, the three-year old New Jersey bred was coming into the race with a perfect record after two late 2016 victories at Laurel Racecourse in Maryland.

Irish War Cry entered the starting gate at odds of 4-1. After clearing the start with no issues, the colt used his natural speed to carry him to the lead while the other contenders seemed to have problems, From there, he was never seriously challenged as he held sway in the stretch for 3 ¾ length victory in a final time of 1:42.52 for the 1 1/6 mile run on a fast track.

It’s worth noting the de Tomaso is the daughter of the legendary Monmouth Park founder Amory Haskell, namesake of the Haskell Invitational. After earning 10 Kentucky Derby points, Irish War Cry’s connections will be looking for the next step towards the first Saturday in May. As well as he handled the Gulfstream surface, it seems very possible that the March 4th edition of the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes will be that next step, barring injury or illness.

Holy Bull second-place finisher Gunnevera did quite enough to be considered a true Triple Crown contender. The colt ran well into the stretch to finish another 6-lengths ahead of the two-year old champ. With Wins in both the Grade II Saratoga Special at Saratoga and the $1,000,000 Grade III Delta Jackpot, Gunnevera is building up some impressive credentials for moving forward.

The next Derby prep on the schedule will be the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis is run on the other side of the peninsula at Tampa Bay Downs. 

Along with a list of bookmaker free bets from Cheltenham, sports and racing bettors can look forward to plenty of other betting offers in the coming weeks. With the Derby date just three months away, future odds betting, along with weekly Derby preps, figure to make the upcoming “Road to the Derby” one of the best in recent memory. 

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