When it became apparent early this year that Irish War Cry was one of America’s better 3-year-olds, trainer Graham Motion had one race in mind above all others. No, it was not the Kentucky Derby, when Irish War Cry looked like the winner on the far turn before fading in the stretch. It was not the Belmont Stakes, when the colt led until the final yards before finishing second.
It was Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Just a few miles west of the Atlantic Ocean, this absolute jewel of a race track will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its signature race, a race named for Amory Haskell, who founded and then ran Monmouth Park. His daughter Hope, 82, lives not far from the track in the summers. His other daughter Isabelle, 86, comes over each summer from her home in Italy for the Haskell. The sisters present the Haskell trophy each year to the winners.
This year, there is a very real chance Hope Haskell Jones will be presenting the trophy to Isabelle Haskell de Tomaso, who just happens to be the owner of Irish War Cry.
“She’s presented the trophy for as long as I can remember for this race,” Motion said of Isabelle. “This has certainly been a race that we’ve had on our radar…Certainly, she made it clear to me this was a race that she’d like to run in although Isabelle has never pushed me to do anything with this horse. She’s about as easygoing an owner as I’ve ever had. There’s never been any expectations, but this was always a race we had as a goal.”
This Haskell, however, will not be an easy race to win, even for a horse like Irish War Cry who won two major Derby preps. Unbeaten Timeline and Practical Joke are in from the powerful Chad Brown stable. McCraken, once considered the Derby favorite, is very dangerous.
Here is Irish War Cry’s Wood Memorial win:
Here is Timeline’s win in the Peter Pan Stakes:
And here is McCraken winning the Sam Davis Stakes:
All the trainers and owners are no doubt happy not to see a Bob Baffert horse in this Haskell. All he has done is win the race eight times this century.
With three different winners of the Triple Crown races this year, the 3-year-old championship is wide open as the second half of the season begins in earnest this weekend, first with the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Saturday, followed by the Haskell.
Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing make their first starts since the Preakness in the Jim Dandy. Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit will await the Aug. 26 Travers at Saratoga where the successful horses from these two races will likely go next. No doubt, some of the Travers horses will be coming to Parx for the Sept. 23 Pennsylvania Derby.
First, the Haskell where Irish War Cry will be the sentimental favorite for so many reasons, including the fact that he is a Jersey bred, a nearly extinct species because there is so little incentive to breed horses in the state as the sport has been slowly squeezed into irrelevancy by government inattention.
Beyond Irish War Cry, it could be a giant day for the Haskell family and Jersey breds as Motion will start two other horses on the Haskell card for de Tomaso. Irish Strait in the Monmouth Stakes and Irish Defence in the Reilly Handicap are out of Irish Sovereign, Irish War Cry’s dam.
Motion has never run a horse in the Haskell or the Travers. Well, he is in the Haskell and if Irish War Cry wins or runs well enough, he will be in the Travers too.