Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) had two wins in two starts going into today’s Holy Bull (G2).
Even though he had done everything asked of him, the question loomed: which Irish War Cry would show up to face more proven horses like champion Classic Empire and multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera in his graded stakes debut?
One showed up, drawing in off the also-eligible list, in a maiden special weight sprint at Laurel on November 11.
He sat off the pace, swept around the field, and rolled to the wire comfortably in front. He was a little green down the stretch, but within forgivable bounds for a first-timer. He looked like a horse with a baseline of maturity and perhaps upside.
Another Irish War Cry loaded into the gate at Laurel on December 31 for the seven-furlong Marylander Stakes.
So rank and eager compared to November’s version, he sent to the front. Another son of Curlin, Undulated, fought him early. As that more grass-inclined colt retreated, O Dionysus picked up the slack. Irish War Cry and O Dionysus turned the stretch run into a street fight. Despite his rankness, despite his change in style, Irish War Cry got his nose on the wire first.
The Irish War Cry of the Marylander carried a mixed bag. On the disappointing side, he proved he had more growing up to do than his debut originally suggested. More encouragingly, he had the grit to win anyway.
Which Irish War Cry loaded into the gate at Gulfstream today? Today’s version looked like a little bit of both, in a good way.
Like the version who showed up in the Marylander, he sent to the front. Though Talk Logistics broke on top, Irish War Cry still came out sharply, and he asserted a clear lead into the clubhouse turn of his two-turn debut. Talk Logistics and Classic Empire tracked, with the rest chasing farther back.
Down the backstretch, Irish War Cry continued to carve out the pace. Gone was the rank Irish War Cry of the Marylander, so rankly throwing his head. Though eager on the front, he moved more comfortably than he had in that last outing. He bobbed his head like a racehorse; he no longer threw it like a child.
Turning for home, the possibility became clear: Irish War Cry could very well wire the Holy Bull. Classic Empire, the champion, the odds-on favourite, had inherited second. But, Julien Leparoux was already imploring him to do more. Meanwhile, Joel Rosario still sat chilly on Irish War Cry as he cruised on the lead.
Gunnevera had been advancing through the far turn, and swung into the stretch to make his move. He slipped past Classic Empire, but never challenged Irish War Cry. A shake of the reins, a wave of the whip, and the son of Curlin was gone. Irish War Cry crossed the wire 3 3/4 lengths clear of Gunnevera, and it was another five back to Classic Empire.
Returning to the winners’ circle, Irish War Cry looked resplendent. His coat shined like a penny fresh from the mint, and he had a lot of energy for a horse who had just run the first two-turn race of his life.
Which Irish War Cry will show up in his next race?
If the one who came to the Holy Bull today does, and he handles a bit more distance as well as his post-race impression and his sire’s blood would suggest he might, then Irish War Cry has a good chance as he gallops further down the Derby trail.