Red Cardinal won the fourth edition of the Belmont Gold Cup on Friday at Belmont Park, holding off a fast-finishing St Michel.
The Andreas Wohler-trained horse timed his finish to perfection, eventually beating the runner-up by around half a length. Now We Can came home in third position in a fascinating tactical battle.
The two-mile chase is the main appetiser to Saturday's Belmont Stakes, the final Triple Crown race of the year after the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
Race Result (Odds)
1. Red Cardinal (7-2)
2. St Michel (9-2)
3. Now We Can (8-1)
Results courtesy of the Belmont Stakes website.
The At The Races Twitter feed posted the final moments of a fascinating race, as Eduardo Pedroza steered Red Cardinal to a memorable triumph:
At The Races @AtTheRaces
St Michel runs a cracker for @HeathHouseNkt while Wicklow Brave makes late headway as German raider Red Cardinal takes the Belmont Gold Cup: https://t.co/IVwC4Vatr72017-6-9 21:58:27
As noted by horse racing journalist Melissa Bauer-Herzog, in a cosmopolitan field it was the European horses who performed admirably:
Melissa Bauer-Herzog @mbauerherzog
One for Montjeu! Red Cardinal takes the G3 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational trophy back to Germany. Europe dominated that race.2017-6-9 21:57:28
Two of those Europeans, Wicklow Brave and Clondaw Warrior, were very slow out of the gate, giving their riders a lot of work to do.
Roman Approval moved a long way clearly early on, storming through the first quarter-mile and putting around 15 lengths between himself and the favourites. However, as the race settled down, he was swallowed up by the bunch again.
As the riders turned for home, there were a clutch of horses in contention, including the recovered Wicklow Brave. However, Clondaw Warrior was well off the pace, with jockey John Velazquez struggling to get anything from the Willie Mullins-trained horse.
Even without one of the pre-race favourites, the climax to the two-mile race was fascinating, as Pedroza made an early move.
It looked likely to be decisive pretty quickly, as no other horse initially broke from the bunch. Eventually, St Michel did, although it proved to be too little, too late despite a rapid finish.
TVG's Candice Hare feels as though this win gives Red Cardinal a brilliant chance to win the Melbourne Cup in November:
Candice Hare @chare889
Huge congrats to @Austbloodstock w/Red Cardinal taking G3 Belmont Gold Cup -- further enhancing his Melbourne Cup resume. Savvy placement https://t.co/8rPiTy6uvl2017-6-9 21:57:10
St Michel turned in a fine performance here, and trainer Sir Mark Prescott would have been pleased to see him finish with such vigour down the stretch. However. jockey Irad Ortiz, like plenty in the field, seemed to be caught out by the timing of the move from Red Cardinal, with the pace slowing before the home straight.
For Mullins, the feeling will ultimately be one of disappointment, as he would have been confident of either Wicklow Brave or Clondaw Warrior doing the business on the day. The pedigree of the latter, in particular, will be up for debate after this effort.