OCEANPORT — Irish War Cry, the runner up in the Belmont Stakes, is the 5-2 favorite in the $1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds.
The richest race of the season at Monmouth Park drew a field of seven for the 50th edition on Sunday.
With a victory, Irish War Cry would join Thanks To Tony (1980) as the only New Jersey-bred winners of the state's biggest thoroughbred stakes.
The Garden State connection runs even deeper. The race is named for Amory Haskell, the first chairman and president of Monmouth Park, whose daughter Isabelle de Tomaso bred and owns Irish War Cry.
The morning-line choice breaks from the rail with Rajiv Maragh aboard for trainer Graham Motion.
Irish War Cry was a top contender heading into the Kentucky Derby after winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. After chasing the early pacesetter, he faded to 10th.
Motion initially planned to give the horse time to regroup after the Derby and await the Haskell. The colt was training so well that Motion sent the horse to the 1½ mile Belmont.
It was a good decision. Irish War Cry led most of the way but was beaten two lengths by Tapwrit.
"At the end of the day, we are all very excited that we got to this point," Motion said. "This was certainly our goal of the summer."
Trainer Chad Brown sends out the second and third choices in the Haskell: the undefeated Timeline, 3-1, and Practical Joke, 4-1.
Timeline, winner of Monmouth's Pegasus Stakes last month, is 4 for 4 coming into the biggest test of his career.
"He's a horse that's always shown a lot of natural ability," Brown said. "I've had my eye on the Haskell for this horse for a long time. I felt this race would suit him."
Javier Castellano will ride Timeline from post 3.
Practical Joke is alongside in post 4 with Joel Rosario in the saddle.
The full Haskell field, in post-position order with jockeys and odds: Irish War Cry, Maragh, 5-2; Battle of Midway, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Timeline, Castellano, 3-1; Practical Joke, Rosario, 4-1; McCraken, Brian Hernandez, Jr. 9-2; Hence, Paco Lopez, 12-1 and Girvin, Robby Albarado, 6-1.
The 1 1/8 miles Haskell is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race. The winner earns a qualifying berth in the $6 million Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.