Goes from 10 to 110 Kentucky Derby Points
By Dick Downey
Irish War Cry rebounded from a sub-par showing in the Fountain of Youth Stakes to win the Wood Memorial by 3 1/2 lengths over Battalion Runner.
After impressively winning the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Irish War Cry finished seventh in the Fountain of Youth after being unable to settle in the early part of the race. A jockey change ensued, and Rajiv Maragh got the job done in the Wood.
Irish War Cry contended for third and fourth place into the first turn, then found himself in second position up the backstretch as Battalion Runner set a pace of 23.50, 47.34 and 1:11.83 to the second turn. True Timber was second early in the run up the back but yielded to Irish War Cry further on. Cloud Computing, who broke slowly, was hustled up into fourth as the turn loomed. Mo Town was among the front runners only briefly in the first turn.
As the field rounded the far turn, Irish War dueled with Battalion Runner to his outside and emerged as the narrow leader into the stretch before drawing away. Battalion Runner easily finished second, and Cloud Computing was third, albeit beaten seven lengths. True Timber was another 3 1/2 lengths back in fourth. The winning time was 1:50.91
It was another 13 1/2 lengths back to Bonus Points in fifth, followed by Glennrichment, Mo Town and Stretch's Stone.
The race outcome was a huge payoff for trainer Graham Motion's decision to skip the Florida Derby and ship Irish War Cry to Fair Hill Training Center where the son of Curlin put in a workout six days before the race.
With 100 Kentucky Derby points earned today, that's 110 total Derby points for Irish War Cry. Second place earned 40 for Battalion Runner, who was making his stakes debut. Cloud Computing, who earned 20 points by running second in the Gotham Stakes, pushed his total to 40. True Timber got 10 points and now has 16.
The winner's share of the Wood Memorial purse of $750,000 is $450,000. Irish War Cry was the 7-2 third choice and paid $9.00, $4.70 and $3.20 to his backers. Battalion Runner was the post-time favorite at 2-1. Cloud Computing was 2.4-1.
Irish War Cry managed to cap off a New Jersey-bred double with the preceding race, the Carter Handicap, going to Green Gratto, who was also bred in the Garden State. Irish War Cry is owned by his breeder, Isabelle de Tomaso. He's by Curlin out of the Polish Numbers mare Irish Sovereign and was foaled on May 2, 2014.
As for Maragh, it was his biggest victory since returning to the races last November. He had been away from competition for a year-and-a-half following a spill that resulted in serious injuries.
and has been on him the last few mornings to see how he is. He's not a difficult horse. He's not a rank horse; he's a very classy horse. We both thought it was a good idea for Rajiv to get on him in the mornings. I thought he won pretty comfortably, and it doesn't seem like distance of the Derby will be an issue.
"I haven't spoken to Rajiv yet, but he looked like he was pretty confident. He probably could have waited a little longer, if he had needed to. It seemed like he had a lot of horse. I think the equipment change (to a figure 8 bridle) probably helped. It gives you a little more control. But he had the perfect trip today. I don't know what happened last time. It's just a complete puzzle to me.
"It's extremely gratifying to get this horse back on track. That was huge. I don't remember having a situation like this, when I felt so much was on the line. I think Rajiv must have felt like he had a lot of horse because he moved to the leaders so confidently. It's also gratifying to win this race for Mrs. de Tomaso."
Rajiv Maragh, winning jockey: "The race went well. We had a great post. He broke good out of the gate. He was sharp into the first turn. There was a little pace in front of him, which is what we were hoping for to get in a good tracking positon. He was always in a smooth rhythm.
"He relaxed real easily. He did everything I wanted him to do without a lot of effort. He did it all in rhythm. He wasn't rank at all. He settled beautifully. By getting on him in the mornings, I didn't think I'd have a hard time getting him to settle because he goes so easy and comfortable. We ran good together today.
"When I was down and out (from a serious injury), these are the days I dreamed about. These are the days that made me feel I wanted to ride. You never know if you'll get them again after being off so long. I can't be more thankful for everyone who has been there for my recovery and supporting me now that I'm back. I've never been so emotional after a race in my life as I was after this."
Todd Pletcher assistant Byron Hughes, Battalion Runner: "Going from allowance to a grade two, two turns, shipping all the way up to New York, I thought he ran a good race. He was on the front end doing all the heavy lifting. I thought he dug in and according to Johnny, he just got a little green there. It was a big effort for his fourth start overall and first start in a graded stakes. It was his first start at a mile and an eighth, so it's not disappointing. We were going to let Johnny break and go to the first turn. They broke well and let him do his thing. I thought he looked comfortable on the backside. He just came up short.
"Getting the 40 points should be enough to get you in the Derby, so that'll be something Todd and owners will talk about and we'll go from there. We'll see how he comes out of it. He seems to be improving. He's talented, he's always shown that in the mornings and the afternoons."
John Velazquez, jockey aboard Battalion Runner: "He broke well. We got into a good position going into the first turn. I thought that's where I was going to end up. He ran a good race. He was a little spotty during the race. I don't know why he did that. He was a little unsure whether he was going to run or not."
Irad Ortiz, Jr., jockey aboard Cloud Computing: "I got a very good trip, can't complain about it. He missed the break a little bit, but he got in a good position on the backside following the winner. I was waiting, waiting, waiting, they just got away from me. I got beat by two very good horses."