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ELMONT, NY – When Jamie Spencer tipped him out, Godolphin homebred Yibir circled the field in an instant and took off strongly in the stretch to win Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park.
The Jockey Club Derby is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Yibir receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar this November.
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The 2/1 morning line favorite while making his North American racing debut, the British-bred Yibir broke a half-step slow from gate 2 as the 5/2 second choice and trailed the field of seven 3-year-old colts and geldings.
Tango Tango Tango went to the lead as expected but soon came under pressure from Slicked Back, who pushed the pace through fractions of :25.37, :49.45, 1:14.46, and 1:39.50 for the opening mile.
Spencer sent Yibir out wide as the field rounded the far turn and the Charlie Appleby trainee immediately flew past his rivals to secure command at the top of the stretch.
Drawing away impressively in the stretch, Yibir crossed 2 1/2 lengths clear while completing the 1 1/2-mile firm turf route in 2:26.23.
“I was confident going in. He ran a good race and fared well in the stretch,” Spencer said. “I’m happy with his performance today. He’s a nice horse and it was a good trip.”
Soldier Rising, second in the Saratoga Derby (G1) last time out in his American debut, was full of run in the far turn while tracking from third but was stuck inside and behind rivals until Yibir had already gone past. He rallied late past Slicked Back to take second by a 1/2-length.
Bolshoi Ballet finished fourth in a tight photo finish over Tokyo Gold and Step Dancer, while Tango Tango Tango faded to last. Experienced scratched.
Yibir’s win was his third in his past 4 starts after he found similar success in the 1 5/8-mile Bahrain Trophy (G3) at Newmarket and in the 1 1/2-mile Great Voltiguer Stakes (G2) at York last time out. The gelded son of elite European-based sire Dubawi improved his record to 11-5-1-2 with $815,580 earned.
“He can be a bit of a quirky character, so it was more of a matter of if he kept his head right,” travelling assistant Chris Connett said regarding the poor break. “When they jumped out and he wasn’t really going a lick, I thought ‘Oh, he’s never done that before,’ but Jamie gave him a great ride and coaxed him into it. Once he started to roll, he’s got some engine on him.”
Yibir returned $7.30 to win, $3.50 to place, and $3.40 to show. Soldier Rising brought back $3 to place and $2.80 to show. Slicked Back paid $6.40 to show.
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