Cape Blanco (IRE) found his trip across the Atlantic as the perfect remedy for his so-so form of 2011 as he produced a 2 1/4 length win in the Grade 1 Man o'War at Belmont Park.
Much like last year's Turf division, the 2011 crop of North American contenders appears to be at the mercy of well-intended European shippers. Cape Blanco hasn't exactly been a world beater in England this season, but he took down several horses that are considered at or near the top of the turf division on this continent. Defending Man o'War champion Gio Ponti made a spirited late run but could get to the winner as they hit the wire.
I don't know what a victory in the Man o'War means for Cape Blanco going forward as he's been a step behind Group 1 horses in his starts in France and England this spring. But after his win in the Man o'War, he's demonstrated that he is clearly a Grade 1 horse in North America. He once again closed into slow fractions but, absent entering a rabbit to ensure a fast pace, the connection of Gio Ponti have to expect that pace scenario.
Out in Southern California, First Dude edged out Game On Dude and Twirling Candy at the wire to take the Gold Cup at Hollywood Park and give trainer Bob Baffert a 1-2 finish this afternoon. By virtue of his win in the Hollywood Gold Cup, First Dude is now a graded stakes winner on both dirt and synthetic, something that will surely look nice on the stallion resume later on.
No excuses for the favorite Twirling Candy as he had a chance to go by the very gutsy Game On Dude at the top of the stretch but had no desire do that very thing; he never got by him during the entire stretch drive. In the process, Twirling Candy becomes another favorite in a graded stakes race that can't get it done when it matters. Between the stakes races for three-year-old males and those for the handicap division, it's tough to find a standout male horse that wants to go two turns on a consistent basis.
As for the overall Classic division picture, who takes the lead at this point? Is it First Dude? Is it Apart? Can Twirling Candy still make a claim? Are Sidney's Candy and Tizway really ten furlong horses? One thing is appears likely: there won't be any monsters lining up in the starting gate at Churchill Downs this November.