Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith's George Vancouver showed
a turn of foot worthy of his freshman sire, Henrythenavigator, to score handily
in Saturday's $909,000
Cup Juvenile Turf. By beating the Chad Brown duo of Noble Tune and Balance
the Books, the Irish shipper gave his Coolmore connections, and trainer Aidan
O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore, their second straight win in this race, following
Wrote a year ago at Churchill Downs.
In the process, George Vancouver established a new stakes record by navigating the firm-turf mile in 1:33 3/5. That easily eclipsed the old Juvenile Turf mark of 1:34 3/5 set by Donativum in the 2008 running over this course.
George Vancouver brought strong European form along with him, having finished runner-up to Reckless Abandon in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville in August and third to presumptive champion Dawn Approach in the Group 1 Dewhurst at Newmarket last out on October 13.
Perhaps because of his less-than-inspiring career record of 1-for-6, however, the Ballydoyle colt was let go at 9-1. Noble Tune garnered lukewarm favoritism at 7-2, while English raider Dundonnell was also well supported at 9-2. But neither had the blistering acceleration shown by George Vancouver down the stretch.
Given a textbook ground-saving trip by Moore, George Vancouver hugged the fence within striking distance of the hotly contested pace. Stablemate Lines of Battle, breaking from the far outside post 14, flashed speed and hooked up with Summit County, I'm Boundtoscore and Gervinho entering the clubhouse turn. Dundonnell totally blew the turn, and careered well wide, pushing Know More out into the center of the course.
Meanwhile, the rail-drawn Summit County used his position to get a length clear through quarter-mile split in :22 2/5. But I'm Boundtoscore was bearing down on him through a half-mile in :46 2/5, and Gervinho and Brown Almighty were also in close pursuit. Brown Almighty took over when reaching six furlongs in 1:10 1/5, but Gervinho was right alongside.
Dundonnell, who regrouped on the backstretch, was dragging jockey James Doyle forward. Perched on the outside turning for home, Dundonnell offered his challenge at the top of the stretch. All the while, George Vancouver was holding his fire on the inside and awaiting a seam behind horses.
The gap soon materialized between Brown Almighty and Gervinho, and George
Vancouver shot through. Reveling in his first try on firm turf, the well-bred
bay steamed 1 1/4 lengths clear and fueled mutuels of $20.60, $11 and $7.20.
"He traveled very easy and he had a small gap," Moore said. "But with that much horse, he had plenty to go through there and he actually -- I was in front a little bit too soon on him. It was a little longer than people give the short straight credit for, and when he got there he gave a look and hung out to the right, so I think there was a bit more in the locker room."
"Ryan gave him a super ride," O'Brien said, "and he has been crying out for fast ground all year -- his dad was the very same. Henry's two-year-old career when he was a racer was soft. He didn't do anything that we thought he would do. This horse is the same, and all the Henrys have been the same. We have been destroyed with soft ground all year in England.
"Ryan always wanted to ride this horse and always believed in him, gave him a marvelous ride and we're delighted."
Noble Tune rallied a trifle sooner than his troubled stablemate Balance the Books, and capitalized on his early jump by holding off the deep closer by a neck for runner-up honors.
"They ran great," Brown said of his place-getters. "They ran into a really good horse today. These horses, I would say, tied for second-best. One beat the other for second (by a neck). They trained close. Everyone has watched them breeze in New York, and they all know they are noses apart and they ran that way.
"I'm thrilled," the trainer added. "I'm thrilled for both clients that they ran well. They beat the rest of the horses in the field, which was a deep field. They clearly have identified themselves as the two top two-year-old turf colts in the country coming into their three-year-old year. I'm just thrilled they are in my barn."
"I was very happy with the way the horse (Noble Tune) performed," jockey
Ramon Dominguez said of the runner-up. "We had a good trip. Of course you hate
to see the winner getting through while your horse is running on the outside.
But that's what happens in a 14-horse field."
"(Balance the Books will) move up with a little more distance," Julien Leparoux said of his mount. "I had a very smooth trip, not really any trouble except for the usual bumping. We started to move leaving the far turn and there was no traffic at all, but then at the head of the lane I had to wait a little bit, and that was it."
There was a 1 1/4-length break back to the rest. Dundonnell, who appeared one-paced down the lane, saved fourth by edging Gervinho by a head.
"I thought he ran a big race," stable rider James Doyle said of Dundonnell. "We got into a nice rhythm going down the backside. Turning for home I had to wait a bit for room, but we had no problems. He put in his run and I thought we had a big shot."
Artigiano reported home sixth, trailed by Lines of Battle, Joha, Brown Almighty, the slow-starting Fantastic Moon, Dry Summer, Summit County, Know More and I'm Boundtoscore. The also-eligible Rising Legend stayed in the barn.
With the $540,000 payday, George Vancouver now sports a 7-2-1-1 mark and $700,295 in earnings. Fifth in his June 15 debut on soft ground at Navan, he was only fourth in similar conditions at the Curragh on the Irish Derby undercard. George Vancouver went to the Polytrack at Dundalk to break his maiden by a convincing 3 1/4 lengths on July 16 and has been competing in Group stakes ever since. He was a rallying second to the undefeated Reckless Abandon in the Prix Morny, but was a disappointing third as the odds-on favorite in the Group 3 Round Tower back at the Curragh September 9. George Vancouver turned in a much better effort when third in the Dewhurst on unsuitably soft ground, and took a giant leap forward here.
"We always thought he was a very good horse," O'Brien said. "His first two
runs were on bad ground, and we took him to the fast ground (at Dundalk) and he
went there and won very easy.
"We were always thinking it would be fine for him (here). The ground was always what we were hoping would make the difference, and obviously Ryan had rode him with great confidence from Deauville, and he thought that this track and this ground and race would suit him."
George Vancouver is now on the short list for next May's Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket.
"Is he a Guineas horse? We always thought he could be," O'Brien said. "Ground is vital to him, and he showed that it's well within his compass for next year and obviously we're delighted."
Bred by Capital Bloodstock in Kentucky, George Vancouver was purchased for $450,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. He is out of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Versailles Treaty, a Danzig mare who has also produced Grade 2 scorer Saarland.
This is the tremendous Phipps family of Grade 1 victress Gold Fever, Grade 3-winning sire Out of Place and Boisterous, who just successfully defended his title in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct earlier on Saturday. Other notables deeper in the line include Grade 1 stars General Assembly and Chief Honcho, Group 1 hero Poet's Voice and the influential sire Exclusive Native.