Marc Keller’s Grand Couturier scored his second consecutive grade I win, coming from off the pace to post a resounding 10 1/4-length victory in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) (VIDEO) Sept. 27 at Belmont Park in New York. The 5-year-old Grand Lodge horse, who also won the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) Aug. 16 at Saratoga, was ridden by Alan Garcia.
Summer Patriot, who led briefly coming out of the turn before being collared by Grand Couturier, was nosed out for second by 16-1 Interpatation and Kent Desormeaux. The final time for 1 1/2 miles on the "yielding" turf was 2:34.84.
Garcia allowed Grand Couturier to settle nicely in the early going while pacesetter Presious Passion took the field of eight older horses around the Widener Turf course. The fractions were :50.52, 1:16.84, and 1:42.35. Proudinsky and Strike a Deal pressed the pace, while Jade’s Revenge and Interpatation stayed within striking distance.
Sitting fourth through a mile, Grand Couturier began to get revved up while coming four-wide into the final turn. He easily passed a tiring Presious Passion and then set his sights on Summer Patriot, who also came from off the pace to pose a threat. The English-bred horse drew off with ease in the final furlong, but had to wait for the stewards to disallow an objection lodged by Desormeaux, who claimed Grand Couturier interfered with Interpatation down the backstretch.
“I’m not sure what the objection was about. I thought the race was pretty clean,” Garcia said. “My horse really loved the soft course. I just asked him for run on the far turn and then he just took off. He’s gotten really good.”
Desormeaux saw it differently.
“(Grand Couturier) just came over and took my path," the jockey said. "We’re lucky we didn’t fall. He got by me around the turn. It didn’t need to happen; he obviously shut me off. My horse ran huge.”
Grand Couturier, who also won the Sword Dancer in 2007, now has three graded stakes victories to his credit. He is likely headed back to the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) next month at Santa Anita. Last year, he finished sixth in the event at Monmouth Park.
“This turf was in good shape,” trainer Rob Ribaudo said. “The turf course at Monmouth last year scared us because he didn’t seem to get into it. It was a little deep with mud, and he didn’t really perform that day. I would think we will be going (back) to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Bred by Tom Wilson and out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Lady Elgar, Grand Couturier is now 7-0-5 from 17 starts and has earned $1,460,100. Going off as the favorite, the winner paid $7.30, $4.10, and $3. The exacta (6-1) was worth $130, while the trifecta (6-1-5) returned $788.
Strike a Deal was fourth, followed by Proudinsky, Presious Passion, Dancing Forever, and Jade’s Revenge.