Wood Memorial win makes comeback worthwhile, says Maragh
QUEENS, New York ( CMC):
Jamaican jockey Rajiv Maragh says dreams of winning events like last weekend's US$750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes were what served as motivation during his recent difficult 16-month injury layoff.
The 31-year-old captured the Grade II event at Aqueduct on Saturday, producing a superb ride aboard 3-1 chance Irish War Cry to beat the three-year-olds over a mile and eighth in a time of one minute, 50.91 seconds.
For Maragh, it was his biggest triumph since returning to action last November, after recovering from a punctured lung, a broken rib and several broken vertebrae, in a fall at Belmont Park in July, 2015.
"When I was down and out, these are the days I dreamed about," said Maragh, who won the 2014 running of the event with the outstanding Wicked Strong.
"These are the days that made me feel I wanted to ride. You never know if you'll get them again after being off so long. I can't be more thankful for everyone who has been there for my recovery and supporting me now that I'm back.
"I've never been so emotional after a race in my life."
Maragh broke the Graham Motion-trained chestnut colt nicely, to stalk from four-wide through the first quarter, as Battalion Runner eked out a half-length lead on True Timber, with Mo Town sitting third.
Passing the quarter-mile marker, Maragh moved Irish War Cry up into third and he was just off the flank of the leader Battalion Runner at the half-mile run in 47.34 seconds.
The pair were level at the three-eighths pole but Maragh pushed Irish War Cry's head in front as the race swung for home. Battalion Runner initially put up a fight but gave way mid-stretch allowing Maragh to romp to the wire unchallenged by 31/2 lengths.
Having breezed the colt in recent weeks, Maragh said he had no issues with getting him to settle.
"He was sharp into the first turn. There was a little pace in front of him, which is what we were hoping for to get in a good tracking position," he explained.
"He was always in a smooth rhythm. He relaxed real easily. He did everything I wanted him to do without a lot of effort. He did it all in rhythm. He wasn't rank at all. He settled beautifully.
"By getting on him in the mornings, I didn't think I'd have a hard time getting him to settle, because he goes so easy and comfortable. We ran good together ..."
For Irish War Cry, it was his fourth win in five starts, stretching his earnings to nearly $700,000.
Motion also praised the way Maragh handled the colt.
"I think Rajiv must have felt like he had a lot of horse, because he moved to the leaders so confidently," Motion noted.
"He probably could have waited a little longer if he had needed to. It seemed like he had a lot of horse."