European invader Cape Blanco, making his United States debut, denied champion Gio Ponti a third straight victory in the $600,000 Man o’ War (gr. IT) when he held him off in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths July 9 at Belmont Park (VIDEO).
A two-time group I winner in Ireland, Cape Blanco was able to get first run on pacesetter Mission Approved in the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War, took a lead in upper stretch and was plenty game enough to hold off rallies by Gio Ponti and Boisterous. Jamie Spencer flew in to ride Cape Blanco, a 4-year-old son of Galileo—Laurel Delight, by Presidium.
The final time on the good turf course was 2:14.06.
Aidan O’Brien trained the winning chestnut colt for Derrick Smith, Mrs. Fitri Hay, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.
Castleton Lyons’ two-time reigning turf champion Gio Ponti was attempting to become the first horse to win the Man o’ War three consecutive times but was compromised by a wide trip. With Ramon Dominguez aboard, the 6-year-old Tale of the Cat horse rallied from last to get into striking position around the final turn, but had to enter the stretch five–wide and was unable to sustain his momentum against the game winner.
Gio Ponti is now winless in three starts this season.
“He was getting over the ground great,” Dominguez said. “I had a great trip, saving as much ground as possible, and my horse gave me a good turn of foot, but it was not enough.”
Cape Blanco sat a perfect trip under Spencer, as he was able to press Mission Approved from the outside through fractions of :23.59, :50.31, 1:15.45, and 1:39.34 before drawing onto even terms turning for home. Cape Blanco, drifting to the center of the track, battled with a game Mission Approved in the early part of the stretch before putting him away, then prepared for bids from Gio Ponti and Boisterous.
Though Gio Ponti gained ground in the early part of the stretch, Cape Blanco kept him at bay inside the sixteenth-pole.
“I’m very happy with the way the race panned out,” Spencer said. “I wanted to get a lead, but I wanted a good even pace. I joined the leader four furlongs out and my horse was really ready for it, but as I joined him (Cape Blanco) changed leads and lost a front shoe, so that was the only worry I had throughout the whole race. He’s high-class horse and I’m glad he’s come back to form.”
Cape Blanco, bred in Ireland by Jack Ronan and Des Vere Hunt Farm, had been off-the-board in three previous starts this season. But he was only beaten a length when fourth in the March 26 Dubia World Cup (UAE-I) and faced world-class horses Canford Cliffs and Goldikova when sixth in the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) in last start June 14 at Ascot.
In 2010, Cape Blanco won three times, including the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Ire-I) and Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion (Ire-I). Overall, he improved to 7-1-0 from 13 starts and earnings of $2,979,665.
Cape Blanco was purchased at the Goff’s Orby Million and Sportsman’s yearling sale 2008 for $482,229. He was consigned by Garraun Stud.
“We always like to support American racing,” said Charlie O’Connor of Ashford Stud, who represented the winning connections. “We like to race over here and we thought this horse would suit the race. He proved we were right. The distance probably suited him. We were a little bit worried when it was a little bit slow. Jamie gave him a great ride and he kicked on at the right time. He’s back to his best form.”
Sent off as the second choice is a field of six, the winner paid $8.10, $4.10, and $2.80. Gio Ponti returned $2.60 and $2.10 as the even-money favorite and filled out an $18.20 exacta (7-5). The trifecta (7-5-3) was worth $51.50.