01/05/2012 1:32PM

2011 Eclipse Awards: Cape Blanco


Cape Blanco was already a multiple Group 1 stakes winner when he made his first trip to the United States in July 2011.

Less than three months later, by Oct. 1, he had won three consecutive Grade 1 stakes to outdo his previous accomplishments and earn a nomination as finalist for champion turf male of 2011.

Trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, Cape Blanco was bred by Jack Ronan and Des Vere Hunt Farm Co. As a 4-year-old in 2011, he was a global traveler. He raced in four countries, exclusively in Grade 1 or Group 1 races, and had his greatest success in the United States.

[MORE: Complete list of 2011 Eclipse Awards finalists | Vote for Horse of the Year and win]

After finishing fourth in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the Middle East on March 26, Cape Blanco lost two Group 1 races in Europe – finishing fourth in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp on April 30 and sixth in a tough running of the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Cape Blanco did not lose again, racing in Illinois and New York in conditions that were ideal for a European invader. And American bettors saw him coming, making him the favorite in two of those races.

Cape Blanco made his American debut in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park on July 9 and faced the two-time defending American champion turf male in Gio Ponti. In a race over 1 3/8 miles on turf, Cape Blanco was always near the front and fought off five challengers before pulling clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Gio Ponti.

Then, it was back to Ireland, and O’Brien’s base at Ballydoyle Stables. Five weeks later, Cape Blanco was Stateside again for the Arlington Million at Arlington Park outside Chicago. Showing the same style that he used in the Man o’ War, Cape Blanco stalked the early pace before pulling clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Gio Ponti on a yielding turf course.

It was back to Ireland again, but not for long. Cape Blanco made his third trans-Atlantic journey in less than three months in late September for the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 1. This time, there was no Gio Ponti in the field, just four overmatched Yanks.

The margin was not as wide as in his two previous wins, but Cape Blanco prevailed by a nose over Dean’s Kitten as the favorite over 1 1/2 miles on a very yielding turf course.

After the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Cape Blanco was found to have a slab fracture in a knee. At the time, he was a leading candidate for the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. Instead, he was sent to Kentucky where he took up residency at Ashford Stud for the 2012 breeding season. The racing career of the Irish raider was over but not before he left an indelible mark on American scene.


Date Track Race Finish Chart Distance Time Beyers Video
10/01/11 BEL Hirsch Turf Classic 1st 1 1/2 mile 2:36.61 104 Video
8/13/11 AP Arlington Million 1st 1 1/4 mile 2:05:20 102 Video
7/09/11 BEL Man O War 1st 1 3/8 mile 2:14.00 105 Video

Cape Blanco

Breeder: Jack Ronan and Des Vere Hunt Farm Co 
Trainer: Aidan P. O'Brien
Owner: Hay, Mrs. F., Smith D., Magnier, Mrs. J. and Tabor, M.
Record: 15-9-1-0
Best Beyer: 105