Race of the Week 2017

Cape Blanco Outlasts Dean's Kitten in Turf Classic

Odds-on favorite Cape Blanco narrowly retained his unbeaten record in the United States, holding off longshot Dean's Kitten to take the 35th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on "Super Saturday" at Belmont Park.

A well-traveled 4-year-old, Cape Blanco shadowed Mission Approved in second placed through fractions of 52.42, 1:19.37, 1:44.92 and was put to a drive by jockey Jamie Spencer after dispatching the pacesetter midway on the second turn. The favorite took a clear lead into the stretch but was tested to the wire by Dean's Kitten, whose rally fell a nose short.

Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Cape Blanco completed 1 ½ miles on yielding turf in 2:36.61 and returned $3.20 for a $2 win wager as the 3-5 favorite.

"He's a tenacious horse and tries very hard," said Spencer. "The ground was very testing. It was sticky. His heart won it in the end. Whenever you ask him, he always finds more. I was glad to win, but the ground was totally against this horse. He wasn't handling the surface. This was also his first run in seven weeks. He's such a good horse with a big heart. That's why he won today. He needs room. He likes to get out and get galloping. He's got a big stride and he doesn't want his stride to get broken."

Cape Blanco, whose two Group 1 wins in his native country include a victory in last year's Irish Derby, now has made three successful trips to the U.S. in 2011. The son of Galileo came to Belmont in July to win the Grade 1 Man o' War by 2 ¼ lengths and returned to take the Grade 1 Arlington Million by 2 ½ lengths on August 13 at Arlington Park.

"I was a little bit nervous for a while," said Ashford Stud director of sales Charlie O'Connor, representing Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, who own Cape Blanco in partnership with Mrs. Fitri Hay. "The ground was very soft, and it will just show you what a tough horse he is that he was still able to battle on and win. It was his third Grade 1 win over here, and it's fantastic."

O'Connor said Cape Blanco will return to Ireland tomorrow and likely will traverse the Atlantic once again to compete in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf on November 5 at Churchill Downs. The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Turf.

"I'd imagine [the Breeders' Cup Turf] will be the drill, but they'll bring him home and Aidan will see how he comes out of the race and Aidan will decide," said O'Connor. "He's done just another wonderful training job, and Jamie gave him a great ride under difficult conditions."

With the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic victory, Cape Blanco improved his record to 9-1-0 from 15 starts and earned $300,000 to lift his bankroll to $3,855,665.

Grassy was third, followed home by Mission Approved and Winchester.


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Older Comments about Cape Blanco Outlasts Dean's Kitten in Turf Classic...

Three trips multi-thousand mile trips across the Atlantic from Ireland to America for Cape Blanco, and three wins in three of the biggest G1 turf stakes in the US from 10 to 12f. Cape Blanco's ability to accomplish that feat speaks volumes about his ability at this level. I agree with Medlocke. With his win in Saturday's G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. I think Cape Blanco all but sewed up an Eclipse Award for 2011 American Turf Champion at the very least. Should Cape Blanco ship back a fourth time from Ireland to America for the G1 BC Turf, and end up winning that race, too? If that does happen, I think at that point a big and very valid argument could be made for Cape Blanco winning the Eclipse Award for 2011 American HOY, Outright!! Hypothetically speaking, assuming Cape Blanco did win the BC Turf, I can't even think of an American turf horse that's won the G1 Man O' War, Arlington Million, Joe Hirsch, and BC Turf in the same year? Much less one doing it that had to ship all the way from Ireland first to run in those four races.
They had the turf at Belmont today officially listed as "yielding". Which was exactly what the turf was officially listed as at Arlington last month for the G1 Arlington Million. Which I personally found a little ridiculous. Because it was blatantly obvious that both Cape Blanco and Dean's Kitten were dealing with much heavier ground at Belmont today than either of them dealt with at Arlington last month. I sure take my hat off to the race that Dean's Kitten ran in defeat today!! Especially being his first ever career attempt trying 1-1/2, and on such taxing ground besides. But I think it was the class of Cape Blanco that ultimately held on and won the day here. In my mind, there should be no question that with this win in today's G1 Joe Hirsch, Cape Blanco should've surpassed Acclamation in the mind's of the Eclipse voters that will be voting for American Turf HOY. Even if Acclamation wins the G2 Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita on Sunday? I still believe Cape Blanco would have the upper hand in the voting for Turf Champion. Acclamation also has 3 G1 wins this season. But only 2 of his 3 G1 wins came on the turf. Acclamation's win in the G1 Pacific Classic on synthetics should have absolutely no bearing at all in the voting for Turf Champion. Only in the voting for American HOY outright. I think the only way Acclamation can take that away from Cape Blanco now would be to win the G1 BC Turf next month. Which isn't likely, because he's yet to prove that he can win outside of California. In all 3 of Acclamation's G1 win's this season, he's had to ship no further than locally in the state of California. Whereas, Cape Blanco has now shipped to America from Ireland 3 times this season, and is 3 for 3. Having won arguably 3 of the biggest G1 turf stakes in the country from 1-1/4 to 1-1/2. Should Cape Blanco ship back to America from Ireland for a fourth time, and win the G1 BC Turf at Churchill Downs next month? I think he would then have to be in the discussion for every Eclipse Award voter for American HOY outright. TJMO.

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