Not too long after Wise Dan’s retirement was announced Labor Day afternoon, Ironicus rallied from last to take the $250,000 Bernard Baruch H. (G2) in course-record time at Saratoga. On a literal level, the Stuart S. Janney III homebred supplanted Wise Dan, who had won last year’s Bernard Baruch. But was it also a figurative passing of the torch? Time will tell whether Ironicus will also inherit his mantle as North America’s leading turf miler.
Ironicus has the well-known profile of an improver carefully brought along by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. His breakthrough performance came in the May 16 Dixie (G2) at Pimlico, where he demolished the field by 2 3/4 lengths. The four-year-old reverted to optional claiming company at Belmont Park July 8 and scorched a mile over the Widener turf in 1:32.71. Back to the graded stakes wars for the August 15 Fourstardave (G2) at Saratoga, he flew late, and wide, off a slow pace to miss by a neck on the inner turf.
With the shift to the Mellon course in the Bernard Baruch, and a much hotter tempo, Ironicus rebounded in style as the even-money favorite. As expected, Constitution went straight to the lead in his turf debut, but he went quickly and opened up through fractions of :23.32 and :46.36 on the firm course. Grand Tito and Vyjack drew closer to the leader at the six-furlong mark in 1:09.44, and the stalkers accosted Constitution in the stretch.
Wider out, however, Ironicus was sweeping into contention. The gray’s superior turn of foot propelled him 1 1/4 lengths clear, continuing jockey Javier Castellano’s hot hand in Spa stakes. Castellano later rode California shipper Ralis to an upset in the Hopeful (G1).
More tellingly, Ironicus clocked a blistering time of 1:38.54. That bettered the 1 1/16-mile course mark of 1:38.91 held by Spa legend Fourstardave since July 29, 1991.
Grand Tito saved second by a nose from the closing All Included, with Vyjack tiring late to fourth. Constitution faded to fifth in his first start since capturing the February 7 Donn H. (G1). Back on dirt, with the benefit of this under his belt, Constitution is eligible to do better.
Ironicus now sports a mark of 11-5-4-1, $573,790. And that total is sure to increase.
By Distorted Humor, Ironicus is the fifth stakes winner (four of them graded) produced by the multiple stakes-placed A.P. Indy mare Meghan’s Joy. She is also responsible for last year’s Brooklyn Invitational (G2) hero Norumbega, Grade 3 scorers Hunting and Quiet Harbor, and multiple stakes victor Seal Cove. Another of her foals, Minister’s Joy, was multiple Grade 3-placed.
Ironicus inherits his gray coat from his second damsire, Hall of Famer Spectacular Bid. His third dam is Diana (G2) queen Wild Applause, a full sister to multiple Grade 1 turf star Hero’s Honor and a half-sister to 1993 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Travers (G1) winner Sea Hero.
Quotes from NYRA:
Jockey Javier Castellano: “He’s a really nice horse. Unfortunately last time it was a slow pace, the rail was too wide, and I couldn’t give the best chance to my horse. Today it was a different ballgame – no rail, a little more speed in the race. I saved all the ground, cut the corner, and really exploded very well. The mile and a sixteenth helped a lot; last time it was a mile. I think the extra sixteenth really helped me to find the kick. He’s a nice horse. I’m looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Trainer Shug McGaughey: “I thought we were laying a little bit closer; he was a little bit off the pace. Javier said he felt like he was sitting on the best horse and he said he wasn’t going to go wide today and took a chance and hung out. I thought he rode another great race and a great horse. It was a little bit of a throw away because after the Fourstardave I didn’t plan on running him here again, but he came out of his race good and he hasn’t really been running that much, so I thought we might as well give him a chance. I’m very proud of the track record, any time you can do something like that it goes on the horse’s record and you can get somebody to maybe take a look at it.”
Owner/breeder Stuart Janney III: “We’ve thought he was a very good horse, and he continues to improve. His last couple of races have been terrific races. Last time, it didn’t set up just the way we hoped. It was a slow pace and he had to go wide, and he still ran wonderfully. This time, he had a better trip, better pace, and he really finished beautifully. It was terrific.”
Photo courtesy NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography.