ELMONT, N.Y. – European invader Deauville held off a furious late charge by Highland Sky to give trainer Aidan O’Brien his first Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby victory Saturday at Belmont Park.
Kept in the clear by European champion jockey Jamie Spencer, Deauville settled in second through the early going, a length behind Toughest ‘Ombre, who led the field of 13 through an opening quarter-mile in 24.41 seconds, the half in 50.20 and three-quarters in 1:14.20.
The Irish-bred son of Galileo swept past the leader at the top of the stretch and, under a hard drive to the finish line, held a neck advantage over Highland Sky at the wire, completing the 1 ¼ miles on firm turf in 2:00.81.
“I spoke to Aidan earlier and he was adamant that if I got a good break, to be positive and lead if there wasn’t a leader,” said Spencer. “When you set them alight, sometimes they don’t switch off again. But he switched off great once he turned into the backstretch. He was full of energy and had plenty left in reserve for the stretch. He’s a hard-trained horse who was ready for the day.”
Owned in partnership by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, Deauville returned $14.60 for a $2 win wager and improved his lifetime record to three wins and two seconds from seven starts with earnings of $814,201.
O’Brien’s other runner, Long Island Sound, finished seventh as the 5-2 favorite.
“I saddled two good horses, the trip just worked out a little better for the winner,” said T.J. Comerford, assistant to O’Brien. “He finished stronger, had a good setup and was left with plenty of run. The best horse won and he gave a great effort.”
The American Highland Sky, who had settled early towards the back of the pack, picked off rivals through the final turn and unleashed a huge late run in the stretch to finish 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Beach Patrol in third.
Camelot Kitten, Surgical Strike, Long Island Sound, Applicator, Ralis, Humphrey Bogart, Airoforce, Aquaphobia, Toughest ‘Ombre and Call Provision completed the order of finish.