News & Barn notes

Trainer Pat McBurney Looking For Starstruck Notion To Take A Step Up In Sunday’s Irish War Cry Handicap

July 05, 2024

Pat McBurney knew early on that Starstruck Notion was destined to be a grass horse. Now that the veteran trainer has found modest turf success with the 4-year-old gelding it’s time to find out if he can be a stakes winner on the surface.

That chance comes in Sunday’s $85,000 War Cry Handicap for Jersey-breds at Monmouth Park, with 10 entered for the one-mile grass feature.

The field includes the Kelly Breen-trained He’spuregold, who will be looking to win the Irish War Cry for the fourth straight year. The 6-year-old gelding has been New Jersey’s Champion Older Horse the past two years.

That’s what Starstruck Notion is up against for starters.

“He doesn’t have any other allowance conditions for Jersey-breds and it’s the right move now,” said McBurney. “He’s a 4-year-old who has turned into a big, strong gelding.

“Let’s see how he stacks up against a horse like He’spuregold and some of the others in here.”

Bred and owned by Kenneth Garcia, Starstruck Notion comes in off an allowance win on the grass at Monmouth Park on June 9. The son of Great Notion-Star On Broadway by Sir Cat is 3-for-3 on the Monmouth Park turf course and 2-for-2 at a mile on the grass.

His only previous stakes try was a near-miss second-place finish in the Maryland Million Turf at a mile and an eighth at Laurel Park last Oct. 23. Overall, Starstruck Notion has three wins and a second from five career grass starts – even though McBurney did not get to try him on the grass until his sixth career start.

“His mother was a turf horse and he has a sister who was a grass horse,” said McBurney. “His foot is so flat you knew he would definitely be a turf horse. And he really took to the grass when we tried him on it.”

Gelded as a 3-year-old. Starstruck Notion ended his 2023 campaign with that second-place finish in the Maryland Million Turf. McBurney brought him back on April 26 at Tampa Downs, where he finished a tiring eighth in a mile and a sixteenth optional claimer on the grass after stalking early.

“We wanted to go to Tampa to get a race in him so he would be ready for this meet,” said McBurney. “He did not race as well as I thought. He got pretty tired. But he came back and ran super in his last start at Monmouth Park.”

In addition to He’spuregold, the field includes four horses entered from trainer Cal Lynch’s barn, the Chuck Spina-trained There Are No Words (second in the Irish War Cry a year ago) and the resurgent One Tim Willard, who has won two straight. One Time Willard will be making his second start for trainer Jorge Delgado after being claimed for $50,000.

In addition, Great Navigator is a main track only entrant.