Jamie Spencer was seen at his strongest and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Cape Blanco at the his bravest as they sploshed through the mud at Belmont Park last month to land the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, gaining a third successive topflight success in the US this summer and setting them up perfectly for the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on November 5 writes Elliot Slater.
Conditions appeared far more testing than had been indicated by the going forecast of ‘yielding’, but Cape Blanco produced a particularly brave performance to hold on in a desperate finish from Dean’s Kitten, eventually gaining the verdict by a nose having answered Spencer’s every call down the Belmont home stretch. Sent off with best racing odds of 3/5 favourite, most observers had anticipated a fairly comfortable ride for Spencer, but it proved to be anything but the case as the deep ground and mile-and-a-half trip took the son of Galileo to the very limits of his stamina reserves.
Spencer felt that Cape Blanco may well have needed the outing after a seven-week break, but paid tribute to the sheer will to win of last season’s Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes hero. The Ballydoyle-trained four-year-old has enjoyed a tremendous time of things during his summer campaign in the US, opening his account at the first time of asking and going against most racing betting tips in the bargain when beating star American middle-distance horse Gio Ponti by over two-lengths in the Grade 1 Man O’War Stakes at Belmont Park in July, before following up in the Arlington Million at the expense of the same horse five weeks later.
Now with the hattrick under his belt Cape Blanco seems all but certain to take his place in the line up for the Breeders’ Cup Turf November 5, a race for which he is more than likely to start a very warm favourite.