Is Irish War Cry Vulnerable in the Hal's Hope Stakes?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 22nd, 2018

On a quiet weekend of racing, the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park promises to provide handicappers with an intriguing challenge and an opportunity to make a big score.

Held at one mile around one turn, the Hal’s Hope has attracted a blend of sprinters stretching out in distance and two-turn runners cutting back from route races. Throw in a successful turf star that has never run on dirt and you have a wide-open race with plenty of options.

The most accomplished horse in the field is #1 Irish War Cry, a son of Curlin trained by Graham Motion. Last year, Irish War Cry enjoyed a productive three-year-old season that saw him win the Wood Memorial (gr. II) and Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) in addition to running second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). But Irish War Cry also showed a tendency to be inconsistent, misfiring in a handful of major races and ending his year with a distant eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. I) at Parx Racing.

While some of Irish War Cry’s defeats can be forgiven as the result of poor trips over biased tracks (as in the Kentucky Derby and Haskell Invitational), his inconsistency—coupled with the fact that he’s returning from a five-month layoff—makes him a tough proposition to play at a short price, especially since he’s drawn the rail and isn’t guaranteed to work out an ideal trip in a race featuring a couple of quick horses that could beat him to the lead.

Instead, I’ll consider the chances of #2 Economic Model and #6 Malagacy, who are trained by and , two of the leading trainers at Gulfstream Park.  Economic Model hasn’t run since October, but his last effort resulted in an eye-catching allowance win going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park. In that race, Economic Model was a step slow to get going and wound up having to wait in traffic around the turn, but once he got clear he took command easily and prevailed by 1 ¼ lengths with a 102 BRIS speed figure.

As for Malagacy, he opened his career with three straight victories, including a 15-length debut win at Gulfstream Park and a two-length triumph in the 8.5-furlong Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn. Malagacy recently returned from a long layoff to finish second in a six-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream last month, but while his performance was disappointing for the bettors that sent him off as the 7-10 favorite, he actually ran well given that the pace wasn’t terribly quick, and the one-turn mile of the Hal’s Hope seems perfect for him.

Since payoffs could be modest if Irish War Cry prevails, I’ll exclude him from the top spot of an exacta and try to beat him with Economic Model and Malagacy.

$5 exacta: 2,6 with 1,2,6 ($20)

Good luck!