We didn’t get the typical one-shot Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) winner invading from Europe. This time we witnessed something that has never happened before: a horse making three transatlantic trips to America and winning not only three grade I stakes, but three of the most prestigious turf stakes in America.
Aidan O’Brien, who had his greatest success shipping horses to the U.S. last year, sent Cape Blanco here on three separate occasions, winning the grade I Man o’ War Stakes, Arlington Million Stakes, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes.
For his remarkable feat, Cape Blanco was honored with an Eclipse Award as 2011’s Turf Male champion. He received 172 first-place votes of 248 cast. The other contenders included Acclamation (55 votes), Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner St Nicholas Abbey (16), Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) winner Court Vision (2), Turallure (2), and Drosselmeyer (1).
Owned by Mrs. Fitri Hay, Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor, the son of Galileo—Laurel Delight, by Presidium, was already a classic winner, having won the 2010 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Ire-I).
After an uncharacteristically poor performance when shortening up to a mile in the Queen Anne Stakes (Ire-I) at Royal Ascot, it was decided to embark on an early invasion of America in the July 9 Man o’ War, which Cape Blanco won handily over three-time Eclipse champion Gio Ponti. He returned to the States a month later and again easily defeated Gio Ponti, this time in the Arlington Million, run over a yielding course.
A third trip across the pond resulted in a gutsy nose victory over Dean’s Kitten Oct. 1 in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, run over a bog-like course at Belmont Park. Cape Blanco looked to be in danger after making all the running but dug in gamely and refused to let Dean’s Kitten pass him. Unfortunately, a career-ending injury suffered in the race prevented him from running in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), which O’Brien won with St Nicholas Abbey, ridden by his 18-year-old son Joseph.
By accomplishing a feat never before accomplished, defeating a three-time champion on two occasions, and displaying extraordinary courage while winning despite an injury, Cape Blanco proved to be a worthy champion.