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Irish War Cry, Malagacy back at it in Hal's Hope at Gulfstream

by Jerry Shottenkirk

February 23, 2018

What they’ve done and what they could do are criteria we face when we look at stakes races. It’s the makeup of this game we call handicapping.

The Grade 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream Park has some been-there-done-that types and some that are reaching into a new world of possibilities.

Irish War Cry is the first to jump off the page for the mile event at Gulfstream Park (12th race, 2nd leg of late Pick 4). With a quick glance at the past performances, we see the bad finishes in the Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby to end 2017. We know he was 8th, beaten 14 lengths in the Pennsylvania Derby. We know he weakened badly and finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby (in which is was 9-to-2 on the board).

While some of the bad ones stand out, so do races such as the Grade 2 Holy Bull and the G2 Wood Memorial. The Holy Bull marked Irish War Cry’s first of two Gulfstream starts, and the New Jersey-bred of the year (by Curlin) was tremendous in a gate-to-wire score over Gunnevera and others. The Fountain of Youth brought out the not-so-impressive side of Irish War Cry’s game. He gave way early and finished a badly beaten seventh as Gunnevera got his revenge. The Wood brought out the best again as he came from just off the pace and was an easy winner. And later, he was second in the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Graham Motion has been looking for his best to surface again. After a series of good works, there’s a good chance that will happen this time around.

Malagacy also has had his moments, and he’ll join stablemate Send It In as a pair standing in the way of success for Irish War Cry. Malagacy won two of three over the Gulfstream strip last year and reached the top of his game when he won the Grade 2 Rebel. After a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, he was sidelined and then resurfaced in January with a second-place finish in an optional-claiming sprint at Gulfstream.

The Hal’s Hope is an opportunity for Send It In to raise his game. He won the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes last April and has been off since then. He has stakes wins to his credit, against open company as well as New York-breds. He’s trained well and lands in the toughest spot of his career. It’s his chance at success at a new level.

Here’s the suggested Pick 4 ticket:

Race 10: #7 Ruler of the Nile, #8 Candygram, #13 Ark in the Dark.

Race 11: #1 G Q Coverup, #2 Archvillain, #4 Zefiro.

Race 12: #1 Irish War Cry, #6 Malagacy, #8 Send It In.

Race 13: #5 Golden Challenge, #10 Wisely, #12 Rose’s Vision.

50-cent Pick 4: 7-8-13 with 1-2-4 with 1-6-8 with 5-10-12 ($40.50).