News & Barn notes

He’spuregold Holds Off One Time Willard To Win Sunday’s Irish War Cry Handicap For The Fourth Consecutive Year

July 07, 2024

If the Irish War Cry Handicap ever does get renamed it’s pretty obvious what the choice will be.

For the fourth straight year, the Kelly Breen-trained He’spuregold captured the $88,400 Irish War Cry Handicap at Monmouth Park, this time digging in and showing his class while holding on for a neck victory on Sunday over the late-charging One Time Willard.

Ridden by Paco Lopez, Monmouth Park’s leading jockey, He’spuregold saved ground with an early mid-pack rail trip in the one-mile grass feature for Jersey-breds, 3 and up, before finding room and swinging wide coming out of the final turn. That’s where Lopez and He’spuregold beat One Time Willard and jockey Jairo Rendon to the lead.

It made all of the difference at the end for the 6-year-old gelded son of Vancouver.

The winning time over a turf course listed as firm was 1:34.30.

“They were going at a good pace early. I know my horse is comfortable racing inside or outside so I was able to find a spot on the rail to save some ground,” said Lopez. “I felt I was in a good position after the first half mile. Coming out of the final turn I was able to get outside and I was able to get the jump on (One Time Willard).

“I knew that horse was coming but my horse has so much class. This is his race. He was always comfortable. When he needs to show up he shows up.”

Lopez has ridden He’spuregold in his past 15 starts.

New Jersey’s Champion Older Horse the past two years, He’spuregold posted his eighth career victory from 26 starts. Exactly half of his lifetime wins have come in the Irish War Cry Handicap.

“He’s a class horse,” said Breen. “He’s just a nice older horse to be around. I feel like I keep saying this but he’s just all class. I told (owner-breeder) John Bowers that I’ve never had a horse win the same race four times in a row. His comment was `Neither have I.’

“I don’t know if this going to be his last year racing or not. I’m just happy he is performing the way he is.”

He’spuregold paid $5.60 to win as the favorite in the eight-horse field. One Time Willard was two-lengths better than third-place finisher Smithwick’s Spice.

Aiding the cause of He’spuregold victory was the tough-luck fifth-place finish by There Are No Words, who had full momentum along the rail in deep stretch before being shut off and steadied at the eighth pole, losing all chance as a result.

When Monmouth Park resumes racing on Friday (first race post time is 2 p.m.) it will do so with a Jersey Shore Pick 6 carryover of $267,363 for the 20-cent jackpot wager.