By Michael Bennett
There’ll be no Triple Crown this year, but:
Irish War Cry is back on the Triple Crown trail as the 7-2 favorite for the Belmont Stakes. The colt claimed that status after the expected favorite, Classic Empire, was forced out on Wednesday because of an abscess in his right front hoof.
No one was more surprised at the turn of events than Irish War Cry’s trainer, Graham Motion. He left his base in Fair Hill, Md., early in the day, and by the time he arrived in New York, his colt was the favorite in the 12-horse field for tomorrow’s race.
“It’s just very odd,” he said after the draw at Rockefeller Plaza. “This goes to show how quickly things can go wrong. It just takes a little thing like a foot abscess. They’re animals, and things can go wrong at any time.”
Classic Empire was coming off a runner-up finish in the Preakness on May 20 after being fourth in the Kentucky Derby. The trainer Mark Casse said Classic Empire would be pointed toward the Haskell Invitational this summer.
The Belmont was already without the winners of the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming) and the Preakness (Cloud Computing). The wide-open field features a mix of horses who ran in one or both of those races and others new to the Triple Crown series.
Irish War Cry drew the No. 7 post under the jockey Rajiv Maragh. The colt finished a disappointing 10th in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. Epicharis, based in Japan, is the 4-1 second choice, followed by Lookin at Lee at 5-1.