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Breeders' Cup 2017

Another United States Raid for Cape Blanco

Cape Blanco top story.

Cape Blanco, the 2010 Irish Derby victor, is looking for his third straight Grade 1 triumph in the United States in Saturday’s 1 ½-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational.


The Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic for 3-year-olds and up, is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event, with the winner of the Turf Classic to be guaranteed a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November.


In addition to his victory in the Irish Derby, Cape Blanco won a second Group 1 in his native country by taking the 2010 Irish Champion Stakes. He lost four straight following that race, with his best finishes in that span being fourths in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup and Group 1 Prix Ganay, before his connections opted to send the 4-year-old to New York for the Grade 1 Man o’ War in July at Belmont.


The gambit was successful as Cape Blanco defeated two-time reigning turf champion Gio Ponti by 2 ¼ lengths.


He has always shown great tactical speed, so we were fairly confident he’d be well suited by the American style of racing, but you never really know until you try,” said Aidan O’Brien, who trains Cape Blanco for Mrs. Fitri Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.


Cape Blanco returned to the Ballydoyle training center in Ireland following the Man o’ War, then shipped back to the United States to defeat Gio Ponti once again, this time by 2 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 13. The son of Galileo will follow the same path into the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, having trained at Ballydoyle in the interim.


The trip to New York for Saturday’s race will be Cape Blanco’s fourth intercontinental journey of 2011, but O’Brien reports that the chestnut colt has held up well.


“He appears to be in great form so we’re hopeful he’ll run somewhere close to [his] best again in the Joe Hirsch,” said O’Brien. “He’s an extremely laid-back horse so the traveling doesn’t seem to take too much out of him.”


Jamie Spencer once again will make the trek to the United States to ride Cape Blanco, who drew the rail and was installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite.


The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic will be Cape Blanco’s first start against Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Winchester, who won last year’s renewal of the race. Winchester enters the race in top form, having won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational by three-quarters of a length on August 13 at Saratoga Race Course.


After the Sword Dancer, trainer Christophe Clement considered running Winchester in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer on September 18 at Woodbine before opting in favor of a title defense in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Clement said Winchester’s record of 2-2-0 from four starts at Belmont was a factor in his decision.


“It’s probably the tougher race, between that one and [Northern Dancer], but he has always run so well at Belmont,” said Clement. “I had a long conversation with Mr. Firestone, and we both felt the horse should be left in New York. I know it’s a tough race, but he loves Belmont Park.”


Winchester, whose four Grade 1 wins also include a 21-1 triumph in the 2010 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont, will leave from post 5 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard as the 2-1 morning-line second choice.


Clement also will send out Grassy, third in last year’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Grassy has two graded victories to his credit, having won the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack last November and the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on September 10 at Belmont in his most recent start.


“Grassy has done great [following the Bowling Green],” said Clement, who trains the 5-year-old for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider. “We’re running back a little bit quick, but he is training well and looks well. He finished third in the Turf Classic [last year], so there is no reason to not try it again.”


John Velazquez will ride Grassy, 10-1 on the morning line, from post 6.


From post 2 out, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic field also includes two-time Grade 1 winner Teaks North, Arlington Million third-place finisher Dean’s Kitten, and Mission Approved, who upset the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in June.

The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational:








Cape Blanco (IRE)

J P Spencer


A P O'Brien



Teaks North (FL)

J Castellano


J Sallusto



Dean's Kitten (KY)

R A Dominguez


M J Maker



Mission Approved (NY)

R Maragh


N Chatterpaul



Winchester (VA)

C H Velasquez


C Clement



Grassy (KY)

J R Velazquez


C Clement




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