It looks like Prince Arch is headed to Dubai for the $2 million Sheema Classic (UAE-I) after the 4-year-old captured the $230,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) on the turf Sunday in the colt's 2005 debut.
Jockey Brice Blanc angled Prince Arch off the rail in the crowded stretch and the 4-year-old son of Arch
menaced on the outside to get the lead close to the wire, then held off the furiously closing Gigli and Jerry Bailey in the final strides by a nose. The final time was a track record 2:11 2/5 for the 1 3/8-mile distance.
"I moved up toward the leaders and had to push my way out, but once I got outside, I knew he was going to get it because he's always so strong with that good late run," Blanc said. "He's very competitive and it all just worked out tremendous."
Prince Arch registered his first grade I triumph while facing older horses for the first time. Ken McPeek said he was thrilled for owner Raymond Cottrell Sr., who would like to go to Dubai for the March 26 Sheema Classic.
"I think (Prince Arch) is going to be a great older horse and the best thing about it is it's Ray's horse," McPeek said. "He believed in me before anyone else. He's the most loyal client I've ever had."
Seven horses finished within about a length of Prince Arch, who carried high weight of 119 pounds, and Gigli, with 114, in a spectacular stretch run. A half-length behind came 7-5 choice Mustanfar (Jose Santos), who nipped Navesink River (John Velazquez) by a neck. Demeteor was a nose better than Macaw, who finished a head in front of Swagger Stick.
Prince Arch, who defeated Kitten's Joy on a yielding course in the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs at 3, made his first appearance since winning the Saranac Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a head over Mustanfar at Saratoga Sept. 9.
"The horse had been working so good, but you're always a little scared when they've been off that long, especially going a mile and three-eighths first time out, but Kenny really had this horse ready," Blanc noted.
The winner stalked the pace through the first mile along the inside in fourth as Niigon clipped off fractions of :24, :48 2/5, 1:12 3/5 and 1:35 4/5. Demeteor, who raced just off the pace in second throughout, took over the lead, completing the 10 furlongs in 1:59 2/5. But the closers soon engulfed him.
Prince Arch dug in to get the lead in deep stretch, but Gigli, who had to steady on the far turn before coming with a wide charge, just missed. Mustanfar was indifferent early but got rolling on the final turn while circling the pack five wide and closed gamely. Naveskink also closed with interest while just inside of Mustanfar.
The victory, worth $150,000, improved Prince Arch's career mark to 7-4-1 in 15 starts with earnings of $569,186. Bred by Pine Lake Bloodstock LLC in Kentucky, he's out of the Kris mare Princess Kris and was purchased for $37,000 in the 2002 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
The fourth choice in the field of 11, he paid $16.60, $8.40 and $4. The Brazilian-bred Gigli returned $9.80 and $5.20 while completing the $176.40 exacta. Mustanfar was $2.60 to show.
Host finished eighth, followed by Niigon, Quest Star and Rio Guapore.