USA: Irish War Cry stuns Derby favourite Classic Empire
Graham Motion: enjoyed success in the Holy Bull Stakes
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) War Cry stuns Derby favourite Empire
By Nicholas Godfrey 1:33AM 5 FEB 2017
Report: USA, Saturday
Gulfstream Park: Holy Bull Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo
THE Kentucky Derby picture was shaken up when Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire could finish only third on his seasonal debut in the Holy Bull behind all-the-way winner Irish War Cry (Graham Motion/Joel Rosario).
The winner is a son of Curlin who was extending his unbeaten record to three after twice scoring in lesser company at Laurel.
Sent off just short of 9-2, Irish War Cry was handed an easy lead and proceeded to lope around the Gulfstream oval before drawing away in the stretch for an easy victory by nearly four lengths.
"You know, he's a pretty classy horse," said winning trainer Graham Motion, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom.
"He was so classy today and he handled everything so well. I had a feeling we'd end up on the lead and I was feeling pretty good at the quarter pole. It's pretty exciting – there's nothing like being involved in these three-year-old races."
After tracking the pace three wide, the 1-2 favourite Classic Empire had nothing to offer in the stretch and finished a tame third, five lengths behind runner-up Gunnevera.
"He had no excuse, none whatsoever," said trainer Mark Casse. "He gets a little hot, maybe hotter than normal today, but I don't know. We will regroup."
Also on Saturday
Aqueduct: Withers Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo
El Areeb (Cathal Lynch/Trevor McCarthy) continued on the Kentucky Derby trail with a comfortable victory.
Having won the Grade 3 Jerome by more than 11 lengths on his previous outing, he was sent off 1-2 favourite here before stalking the pace and then taking over as they turned for home.
He won by more than four, outclassing his nine rivals to take his winning streak to four; the Wood Memorial on April 8 is likely to provide his final Derby prep.
Santa Anita: Robert B Lewis Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo
Carrying the Zenyatta colours of owners Jerry and Ann Moss, Royal Mo (John Shirreffs/Victor Espinoza) made all before drawing away for a decisive victory to put himself firmly on the Californian trail to Kentucky.
Gulfstream Park: Swale Stakes (Grade 2) 7f, dirt, 3yo
After going unbeaten in five races at Gulfstream Park as a two-year-old, Three Rules came unstuck this time as he was run down by Favorable Outcome (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano), who rallied to score by three-quarters of a length.
Gulfstream Park: Forward Gal Stakes (Grade 2) 7f, dirt, 3yo fillies
A surprise result here as 14-1 shot Tequilita (Michael Matz/Luis Saez) held off Grade 1 winner Pretty City Dancer by a half-length.
Santa Anita: San Antonio Stakes (Grade 2) 1m1f, dirt, 4yo+
A repeat success for Hoppertunity (Bob Baffert/Flavien Prat) after a last-to-first rally as the six-year-old beat stablemate Mor Spirit by a length.
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