Cape Blanco is all alone at the finish of the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Cape Blanco is all alone at the finish of the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes.
Order This Photo

Trevor Jones

Cape Blanco Springs Irish Champion Upset

Cape Blanco defeated Twice Over and Rip Van Winkle, among others.

Cape Blanco took the lead from the start and never looked back, pulling away in the stretch to capture the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) by 5 1/2 lengths at Leopardstown Sept. 4.

With the victory, Cape Blanco earned an automatic berth in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. The Irish Champion Stakes was the third European qualifying race in the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup series.

All eyes were on Aidan O’Brien before the race, as the Ballydoyle trainer saddled three of the six entrants in the contest. In addition to Cape Blanco, O’Brien had the heavy betting favorite Rip Van Winkle and longshot Beethoven.  

Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm sent two challengers to the post, Coral-Eclipse (Eng-I) victor Twice Over and Famous Name, who captured the Jockey Club of Turkey Meld Stakes (Eng-III) in his last start. The field was rounded out by Mark Johnston’s Sea Lord, who entered the race on a four-race winning streak.

Breaking sharply under Seamie Heffernan, Cape Blanco went immediately to the front. The flashy chestnut quickly opened up a few lengths on the field while setting swift early fractions. Sea Lord chased the leader along from second, with Beethoven running in third.

Twice Over and jockey Tom Queally tracked Cape Blanco from fourth, with Rip Van Winkle settling into fifth under Johnny Murtagh.

As the field entered the home straight, Heffernan kicked on with Cape Blanco and the pair drew off for a dominating victory. Rip Van Winkle got up in the final strides to grab second by short head over Twice Over, who in turn was another short head in front of Beethoven in a blanket finish for the minor placings.

The final time for the 10 furlongs was 2:03.89 over the good turf course.

“It was always the plan to make the running,” said Heffernan. “When we went past the four-pole I was getting into a rhythm and I thought he would be hard to beat. He stays well and has a great cruising speed. If I’d had the choice I’d have ridden Rip Van Winkle, so it’s a good thing I don’t have any choices.”

The win gave O’Brien a sixth victory in the Irish Champion, surpassing the legendary Vincent O’Brien’s tally of five.  

After the race O’Brien told reporters: “Although he won the (Dubai Duty Free) Irish Derby (Ire-I), we always felt a strongly run mile and a quarter race would suit him ideally.

“He’s getting stronger all the time and there are plenty of options—the Champion Stakes, the Arc, and then the Breeders’ Cup.”

Cape Blanco is a 3-year-old colt by Galileo out of Laurel Delight, out of Presidium. He was bred in Ireland by Jack Ronan and Des Vere Hunt Farm, and is owned by Derrick Smith.