Newly minted Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) favorite Irish War Cry got his first look at the massive Belmont Park oval the morning of June 8, when he hit the track for a 1 1/2-mile gallop while trainer Graham Motion and jockey Rajiv Maragh kept tabs.
Isabelle de Tomaso's homebred son of Curlin made a trip through the paddock before he emerged on the main track and went about his business in routine fashion a day after shipping in from Motion's base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.
"He was very relaxed out there, and it's much more relaxing here than it was at Churchill (Downs), where it was quite busy," Motion said. "He seems great and he was very sensible and went well."
From the time Irish War Cry boarded the van June 7 to when he arrived in New York, the complexion of the final leg of the Triple Crown drastically shifted. On Wednesday morning, trainer Mark Casse said reigning juvenile champion Classic Empire would not run in the Belmont, where he was expected to be the clear favorite, because of a foot abscess in his right front.
The weight of expectations Irish War Cry now carries as the 7-2 morning line pick is something Motion could have hardly seen after the colt flattened out in the lane and finished tenth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). After he notched wins in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2), the chestnut runner is now poised to not only redeem himself for his disappointing Derby outing but stamp himself as the pro-tem leader of a parity-filled division.
"It is a little crazy, to be honest," Motion said. "But it's good. I'm glad we're here. He's doing well, so we needed to be here."
The morning after he was declared out of the 12-furlong classic, Classic Empire was bright in his stall in the Casse shedrow as he continued to be treated for the abscess
"They put a poultice on his foot and it has to stay on for 24 hours, so he's not moving around great," Casse said. "We had and expert come in and look at him, so we're doing what they tell us. But he's happy."