Irish War Cry the latest Classic hope for Curlin

Irish War Cry: bred by Isabelle De Tomaso from a famous family

PICTURE: Coglianese Photo Irish War Cry underlines Curlin Classic credentials
By Nancy Sexton 1:40PM 9 FEB 2017

ONE aspect of Curlin's stud career which has smoothed his passage towards America's elite is his ability to throw Classic runners with regularity.

In 2013, his first-crop star Palace Malice took the Belmont Stakes; in victory he became a belated first Graded stakes winner for Curlin, himself a $10.5 million earner and dual American Horse of the Year who had started his stud career at $75,000.

A year later, Ride On Curlin finished second in the Preakness Stakes and then in 2015 Keen Ice was third in the Belmont Stakes en route to lowering American Pharoah's colours in the Travers Stakes. It was last year, however, that Curlin's achievements went to another level.

Exaggerator became his second Classic winner when successful in the Preakness Stakes and later landed the Haskell Invitational. He was the headline act of a year that also included Grade 1 winners Connect (Cigar Mile), Curalina (La Troienne Stakes), Off The Tracks (Mother Goose Stakes) and Stellar Wind (Clement L Hirsch Handicap and Zenyatta Stakes).

Roll on to 2017 and Curlin looks set to again feature prominently on the American Classic trail through Isabelle de Tomaso's homebred Irish War Cry, whose near four-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park propelled him into the reckoning for the Kentucky Derby, a race his trainer Graham Motion won in 2011 with Animal Kingdom. The Holy Bull was also a race that well and truly burst the bubble of champion two-year-old Classic Empire, who was left toiling well adrift in third.

Should the unbeaten Irish War Cry, who previously won the Marylander Stakes at Laurel Park, make it to the Kentucky Derby on May 6, it will mark the fifth year in as many crops that Curlin has been represented by a runner in a leg of the American Triple Crown.

That Curlin should be exerting such an influence is maybe not such a surprise in light of his credentials. After all, as an exceptional racehorse who won seven Grade 1 races including the Breeders' Cup Classic, Preakness Stakes and Dubai World Cup, the son of Smart Strike was naturally supported by a number of quality mares in his early seasons at Lane's End Farm, among them champion Rachel Alexandra.

However, Curlin has not been immune to the swings of the market.

For instance, his fee dropped to $40,000 for his second season in 2010 and by 2013, the year after his first group of 104 two-year-olds failed to win a stakes race between them, he was down to $25,000.

It is out of this crop, that numbers just 39 foals, that Irish War Cry has emerged.

Much has happened to change the perception of Curlin since that 2014 crop was born. In the spring of 2015, a 20 per cent share in Curlin belonging to disbarred attorneys Shirley Cunningham and William Gallion came on to the market. John Sikura, in partnership with Elevage II, snapped up the share with a winning bid of approximately $6.2m; it was a figure that raised some eyebrows but, as it turned out, Sikura and Elevage were right on the money.

Since then, Curlin's haul of Grade 1 winners has swollen to seven while his tally of stakes winners stands at 31. He subsequently moved across Kentucky to Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm and, following a year in which he finished second to Tapit on the leading North American sires' list with the earners of over $12.7m, now commands $150,000.

Irish War Cry is the first Group or Graded stakes winner under the immediate generations of his family but his background beyond that is particularly distinguished and will appeal to anyone with an appreciation of the history of the sport.

First, he is a homebred for de Tomaso, who bred the colt in New Jersey (he is one of only 116 Thoroughbred foals born in the state in 2014) out of her winning homebred Irish Sovereign.

Tomaso, 86, is the daughter of Amory Haskell, founder of the Monmouth Jockey Club, and was a highly accomplished – and daring – racing driver in continental Europe during the 1950s. Later that decade, she raced successfully as a team with her Argentinean husband Alejandro de Tomaso and in 1959 the pair founded the De Tomaso motor company, renowned for its production of race and sports cars.

De Tomaso has been in possession of Irish War Cry's family for the best part of 45 years. Her association began with his fourth dam, the British-bred Tambourine mare Tabebuia. Foaled in 1965, she was the daughter of a half-sister to 1961 Derby winner Psidium but also a direct descendant of Pretty Polly – recently crowned as the Racing Post's number one Queen Of The Turf – via Ducca Di Buoninsegna, a foundation mare for Federico Tesio's Razza Dormello-Olgiata.

Tesio picked up Ducca Di Buoninsegna, a granddaughter of Pretty Polly, for 210gns as a yearling in 1921 and out of her bred Delleana, the Gran Premio d'Italia winner of 1928. In turn, Delleana gifted Tesio with his 1937 Italian Derby winner Donatello, one of Tesio's finest masterpieces who became an important sire, as well as Group 1 winner De Nittis and 1933 Italian Oaks heroine Dossa Dossi, the fourth dam of Tabebuia.

Tabebuia was a grand servant for De Tomaso, foaling three Italian Listed winners in Task, Lupo Di Mare and Irish Trip. In turn, Irish Trip, by Saint Crespin II, bred another Italian Listed winner in The Irish Knight before transferring to the US, where she left behind Irish War Cry's winning granddam Irish Genius, by Beau Genius.

Irish War Cry is the best of five winners out of Irish Sovereign, although the mare did achieve the noteworthy feat of producing a black-type runner, Irish Politics, by the disappointing former Kentucky stallion Political Force.

Irish Sovereign is a daughter of the Danzig stallion Polish Numbers, a stalwart of the Maryland breeding industry for many years. She was most effective over 6f for De Tomaso but several of her other winners, namely the First Defence filly Irish Defence, the Even The Score filly Irish Score and the English Channel gelding Irish Strait, won at around a mile.

Curlin regularly imparts a degree of stamina, for which there is no better example than his record in the American Classics. It would also be disappointing were Irish War Cry not to keep progressing and, as such, he appeals as a strong candidate to place his distinguished family back in Grade 1 lights for his colourful owner-breeder down the line.

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