Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
There was some talk around Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) leading into the Holy Bull Stakes (G2). After all, he had broken his maiden impressively at Laurel in November, then posted a gritty score there in the Marylander on New Year’s Eve. But, the Holy Bull would be a test. It would be his first race away from Laurel Park, and it would put him directly in the path of the previous year’s two-year-old champion, Classic Empire.
The New Jersey-bred would pass with flying colours.
Leading into the race, Irish War Cry had not cemented his running style in stone. The Graham Motion trainee rallied from well off the pace in the maiden ranks, but battled up front to take the Marylander.
Irish War Cry came lively out of the gate, clearing past Talk Logistics into the far turn. Irish War Cry led a comfortable length into the backstretch. Talk Logistics and Classic Empire tracked in range, but bided their time as the son of Curlin moved so comfortably up front.
Through the far turn, Irish War Cry maintained his advantage. Paco Lopez implored Talk Logistics, but the longshot dropped away. Julien Leparoux was a bit more confident, a bit more restrained, on Classic Empire. From behind them, Javier Castellano had gotten Gunnevera rolling.
Into the stretch, Irish War Cry made clear that no one compared to him that day. The champion, Classic Empire, faded to a well-beaten third. Gunnevera chased doggedly, but never looked a threat for top honours. Irish War Cry cruised three and three quarters lengths clear come the wire: Curlin’s newest graded stakes winner, and Curlin’s newest Triple Crown trail prospect.
The win in the Holy Bull kicked off a three-year-old campaign that was at turns successful, at turns perplexing. He came up empty in the Fountain of Youth, but won the Wood as much the best. He finished flatly in the Kentucky Derby, but fought on valiantly for second in the Belmont, continuing his sire’s streak of having a Classic-placed horse in every crop. After off-the-board finishes in the Haskell and the Pennsylvania Derby, Irish War Cry has been off for the rest of the year.
Hopefully he comes back even better at four. There’s precedent on both sides of his family to do so. Even beyond the penchant for Curlin babies to do well as they age, dam Irish Sovereign also produced fellow Isabelle de Tomaso homebred Irish Strait (English Channel) — a maiden winner at two, a solid enough allowance horse at three and four, and finally a graded stakes horse this year at five. If Irish War Cry can take a step forward with age, as well, he may grow into a force in the handicap division.