Artiste Royal, making just his second start of 2007 for trainer Neil Drysdale, drew alongside prohibitive favorite The Tin Man approaching the eighth pole and edged away to a one-length victory in Oak Tree's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita Oct. 6.
The result shocked the Oak Tree crowd, which had sent the multiple grade I winner The Tin Man off as the 3-5 favorite in the field of seven. Trained by Richard Mandella, The Tin Man was seeking to join the great John Henry as the only three-time winner of the Clement Hirsch, Oak Tree's turf distance championship event. But for the third time in four starts in 2007, The Tin Man was relegated to runner-up status.
Artiste Royal, a 6-year-old Danehill ridgling, last won more than two years ago in a group III French race at Longchamp. The bay had been winless in nine previous U.S. starts.
The upsetter, ridden by Joe Talamo, ran third in last year's Hirsch, just a half-length behind the winning The Tin Man. After a third-place finish in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) when part of the disbanding Laura De Seroux's stable Dec. 9, the Irish-bred Artiste Royal was transferred to Drysdale by owners David and Jill Heerensperger. In his only start for Drysdale, Artiste Royal raced without his customary blinkers and finished third in a 1 1/16-mile optional allowance/claiming race on the Del Mar turf Sept. 2.
“Well, he timed it right," Drysdale responded when told Artiste Royal had won his first U.S. race. "I just told (Talamo) to sit behind the leaders, to track and then relax. We hope this horse will be invited to the Japan Cup (Jpn-I). That’s what’s in the cards. That’s the plan.”
The US$4.5 million Japan Cup, at 12 furlongs on grass, is Nov. 24.
Blinkers went back on for the Hirsch, and Artiste Royal was much relaxed this time around. After racing near the rear of the seven-horse pack on the outside, Artiste Royal loomed up on the outside of The Tin Man, who had taken the lead rounding the final bend, and had the measure of his rival as Victor Espinoza worked frantically to get The Tin Man to respond in the final furlong. The winning time, under moderate urging from Talamo, was an excellent 1:59.89 on firm going.
"Mr. Neil was very confident and he told me to just keep this horse outside and out of trouble," Talamo said. "I’ve been talking to Neil about this horse for the last two weeks and I knew with the blinkers back on today and the fact that he probably needed his last race, he’d run huge today. I was able to let him break, sit back and make one run. He ran huge.”
The Tin Man stalked pacesetter Republican Hawk in second soon after the start while racing three wide. Fractions were :24.47, :48.27 and 1:12.26 before the The Tin Man wrested the lead at the quarter pole. The Tin Man held off Isipingo by a neck for second.
Artiste Royal improved his record to 5-6-4 in 20 starts, all on turf, and increased his earnings to $471,257. He paid $13.20, $3.80, and $2.80.
The Tin Man, expected to go on the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), returned $2.20 and $2.10 and completed a $29.20 exacta. The Tin Man has run second in three successive races, including the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and American Handicap (gr. IIT). He began the year with a victory in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in May.
“He ran great," Mandella said. "You can’t be disappointed in him. He had a perfect trip and ran his heart out. Neil's ran a little better, that’s all.”
Asked about the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Mandella said, “We won’t think about it for a few days.”
Isipingo, forced to steady a bit while attempting to flee the rail in upper stretch, was $3.80 to show. Aaron Gryder rode for trainer Craig Dollase.
Porfido, Toasted, Runaway Dancer, and Republican Hawk completed the order. Spring House scratched.