Shirocco Shines in BC Turf Blowout

The German-bred Shirocco opened up a big lead in the stretch of the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) and held off a late rally by Ace to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Azamour was a neck back in third making for an all-European trifecta in the 1 1/2-mile, $2.09 million race at Belmont Park.

Shirocco, ridden by Christophe Soumillon for trainer Andre Fabre, is a Baron Georg Von Ullmann German homebred 4-year-old by Monsun -- So Dedulous, by The Minstrel. He earned $1,185,600 for the victory, his fourth in nine lifetime starts, and increased his bankroll to $2,024,086.

As expected, Shake the Bank – the rabbit for last year's winner Better Talk Now – set the early fractions, opening up a seven-length lead early while running through early splits of :23.95, :47.89, and 1:13.20 over the "good" turf course. After a mile in 1:39.53, he was swallowed up by the rest of the field, led by Shirocco, who settled in second before closing in on the far turn.

Turning for home, Shirocco had a two length lead after getting 1 ¼ miles n 2:05.05. The final time was 2:29.30.

"This is just a dream," Soumillon said. "I always dream of winning races like the Arc de Triomphe and the Breeders' Cup and to ride for a trainer Andre Fabre makes it special. To win in New York is unbelievable.

"He likes soft ground and a good pace to run at and with the pacemaker in there, we got both today. When I got to the turn, I just wanted to let him go and not try to pull him back to mix up his action. We got two (lengths) in front and when he saw the wire, he just flew home."

Sent off at 8-1, Shirocco paid $19.60, $11.60, and $4.70.

Ace, who ran third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) behind Shakespeare and English Channel in his U.S. debut, paid $15.60 and $10.

"He's a top of the ground horse, and this deep track today was not to his advantage," said Ace's jockey Kieren Fallon. "The blinkers were a great help. He should have been wearing them all along."

Azamour, the cool 7-2 choice among 13 contenders, paid $4.70 to show.

"(Shake The Bank) backed up into us and took our space," said jockey Mick Kinane. "It was just when I was starting to get my momentum going. He loves a faster surface and he was not benefited by the ground today."

Trainer John Oxx said the 4-year-old Azamour will be retired with a record of 6-1-3 in 12 starts and earnings of $2,641,575. He captured four group I contests in England and Ireland, including the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Of Wales stakes in back-to-back fashion this summer.

"I have trained some top horses like Sinndar and Alamshar and this fella ranks up there with them," Oxx said.

The exacta Saturday returned $296.50 and the trifecta paid $1,560.

Shirocco, last year's German Derby (Ger-I) winner, came into the Turf off a close-up fourth-place finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I) Oct. 2 in just his second start of the year for his new trainer Fabre. The bay colt's last win came by a nose over Electrocutionist in the Gran Premio del Jockey Club (Ity-I) at San Siro more than a year ago when he was conditioned by Andreas Schutz.

"He acts on any ground, and he's a horse that has a lot of stamina," Fabre noted. "So he needs to be ridden like that, close to the pace. He took advantage of his good draw to make the running. I was very confident when I saw him at the front. He stays in training next year."

Fabre has saddled three previous Breeders' Cup winners, two at Belmont Park: In the Wings, winner of the Turf at Belmont Park in 1990, and champion Banks Hill, winner of the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in 2001. He also sent out the legendary Arcangues, who won the Classic (gr. I) in 1993 at 133-1.

The complete order of finish was: Shirocco, Ace, Azamour, Bago, English Channel, Silverfoot, Better Talk Now, Gun Salute, Fourty Niners Son, Leprechaun Kid, Laura's Lucky Boy, Shakespeare, Shake the Bank.

Jerry Bailey said the previously undefeated Shakespeare never handled the turf, tiring badly after chasing the pace while off the rail in third on the backstretch.

(Chart, Equibase)