Isabelle de Tomaso's homebred grade 2 winner Irish War Cry, back on familiar ground at the Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, Md., continued preparations for his next start with a six-furlong breeze over the main track April 2.
Recently named the New Jersey-bred champion 2-year-old of 2016, Irish War Cry was timed in 1:13 2/5, the fastest of three horses at the distance, all trained by Graham Motion.
It was the second work for Irish War Cry since suffering his first loss when he finished seventh as the favorite in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) March 4 at Gulfstream Park. He went five furlongs in 1:01 March 25 at Palm Meadows Training Center.
"I wanted him to have a good work. We had a lot of rain the last couple of days, so that's why I put it off until today. The track was good this morning," Motion said. "He actually shipped back on Monday morning so he got here Tuesday and he galloped since then. He seems to have had a very good week."
Irish War Cry won his first three starts, including a maiden victory Nov. 11 and the Marylander Stakes Dec. 31, both at Laurel Park, prior to his impressive triumph in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Feb. 4 at Gulfstream.
In the Fountain of Youth, Irish War Cry pressed a demanding pace set by Three Rules before tiring to finish 21 1/2 lengths behind late-running winner Gunnevera, who returned to finish third behind Always Dreaming in the $1 million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) April 1.
"To me I think it seemed like a perfect storm of a bounce off the Holy Bull and kind of a deep, cuppy track that he struggled with," Motion said. "That's the best case that I can give."
Irish War Cry is set to make his next start in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"That's the plan. I wanted to get him home and give him the extra week. I just didn't feel like I could run back in the Florida Derby off that performance," Motion said. "For me, it was getting him home and getting him relaxed. The biggest factor was probably the extra week, to be honest. It's also running in a grade 2 as opposed to a grade 1. That was a solid group and the winner looked very impressive, I thought."
Motion was also pleased with the performance of Happy Mesa, the 2016 Selima Stakes winner last fall at Laurel, who was beaten a neck as the favorite in the $100,000 Sanibel Island Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on grass April 1 at Gulfstream.
It was the second start of the year for Happy Mesa, coming four weeks after she finished fourth by 1 1/4 lengths in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream. The Hilltop Stakes at one mile on the turf at Pimlico Race Course May 19 is a possible target, Motion said.
"We'll probably get her back to Fair Hill and point for the Hilltop or something like that," he said. "She ran very solid. She had to give weight away to the winner, but I think it was her best race, to be honest. I was very pleased with her. She's very consistent."