Trainer Graham Motion kept looking for reasons to go elsewhere. Irish War Cry kept arguing that the van ride to New York next week was one worth taking.
The latter member of that duo has all but officially won out, with the last bit of convincing coming on a picturesque morning at Fair Hill Training Center June 3. After the multiple graded stakes-winning son of Curlin cooled out following a six-furlong move in company with stablemate Ascend Saturday, Motion declared Irish War Cry a likely contender for the June 10 Belmont Stakes (G1), pending final approval from owner and breeder Isabelle de Tomaso.
Working to the outside of stakes winner Ascend, Irish War Cry clocked the distance in 1:14 flat, his second timed move since he finished 10th in the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). After watching the chestnut colt flatten out in the lane during the first leg of the Triple Crown, Motion's gut inclination was to write off the rest of the classics and freshen the New Jersey-bred colt toward a homecoming run in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) this summer.
Reflection and evaluation has swayed the horseman back to the other side of pendulum. As long as Irish War Cry emerges from his work in good order, Motion feels he would be doing his charge a disservice if he didn't give him the opportunity to show his best in the 12-furlong test.
"I haven't spoken to Isabelle yet this morning, but right now my inclination would be to go, as long as he comes out of it OK," Motion said. "I'm excited about it. And I've kind of looked for reasons not to do it. I think in the aftermath of the Kentucky Derby I was discouraged and I kind of just forgot about all this.
"But having seen him train, having seen the result of the Preakness, I think we need to take a shot. It's a classic and, if he's doing well, I think it's a shame if he's sitting in the barn."
Motion was emboldened to reconsider his initial stance after Cloud Computing, who was a well-beaten third behind Irish War Cry in the Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2), jumped up to best champion Classic Empire by a head in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
More than one figure has also opined that the Churchill Downs track had a decided rail bias when the Kentucky Derby was run. Given that Irish War Cry looked like he was making a winning move three-wide on the turn only to have jockey Rajiv Maragh say he suddenly ran out of horse a handful of strides later, Motion is hoping there is some credence to that line of thought—even if he isn't ready to check it off as a viable excuse for the colt's end result.
"I hate right after the fact just to come up with a list of excuses. At the end of the day, he was well-beaten," Motion said. "But it is something that is in your mind that is a possibility. I've heard that it wasn't the best part of the track and perhaps that was a factor.
"People can say what they like about the Churchill track that day, but it was a very odd track. It wasn't just a wet-sloppy track. It was a sticky track. We walked over it. We know what it was like. Maybe that factors into it and it makes me feel better if others feel that. But I don't know. I can't explain why he didn't run better."
Irish War Cry will remain at Fair Hill until June 7, where he will train that morning and then van to Belmont Park. The colt has won four of six starts, including a victory in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) in his seasonal bow.
Motion also worked multiple grade 1 winner Miss Temple City Saturday on the Fair Hill lawn, where she went six furlongs in 1:12 3/5.