Trainer Graham Motion, perhaps best known for saddling Animal Kingdom to a famous score in the 2011 edition of the Kentucky Derby, has really made a name for himself in Canada where he has 15 stakes wins to his credit at Woodbine.
Motion already has two graded stakes wins this year at Woodbine including the Grade 3 Singspiel with Shahroze and the Grade 2 Sky Classic with Utmost and is a fan of the expansive E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
“It works well for us with the turf horses we have and the fact that Woodbine runs a lot of distance races, it’s been a big plus for us,” said Motion. “We have a lot of horses in that category between Mekhtaal (2nd in the Grade 2 Nijinsky) and Utmost who won last time and Shahroze who won earlier in the year. We have got a nice group of distance horses and Woodbine has a really good program.”
The veteran conditioner will be looking for his first Ricoh Woodbine Mile win when he saddles Irish War Cry for his turf debut in the one-turn event. The four-year-old Curlin chestnut has competed primarily over a distance of ground on the dirt including wins in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Holy Bull and 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 Wood Memorial as a sophomore.
However, the talented colt has won at sprint distances in the past including a six-furlong score on debut and a victory in the seven-furlong Marylander Stakes, both at Laurel Park. Motion isn’t concerned about a turnback in distance.
“I think it’s something he can handle. He’s got a great turn of foot. At the beginning of the year, I considered keeping him at a mile,” said Motion.
The New Jersey-bred Irish War Cry sports a record of five wins and two seconds from 13 career starts and has banked $1,257,060, despite some notable blips on his past performances.
“To be honest, he’s one of the most confusing horses I’ve ever had to train. I think it’s very hard to put his poor performances down to distance or anything like that as I think weather has played a huge part in his disappointing performances,” said Motion. “His poorer races were in very hot, uncomfortable circumstances that we now know he does not tolerate. In some ways, we’re starting over with him.”
Irish War Cry has trained well since being pulled up last time out in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on an excruciatingly hot card at Churchill Downs and Motion believes the September weather in Toronto should suit the Isabelle de Tomaso homebred.
“The idea is to get him something later in the fall, whether it will be a return to dirt or depending on how he runs up there, keep him on the grass,” said Motion. “He could even run well on the grass and we could still return to dirt. This is not the way he’ll go for the rest of his career by any means. I just want to get him back on track.”
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