ELMONT, N.Y. –European class reigned supreme for the fourth time in a row in Friday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup when LECH Racing’s Baron Samedi built on a six-race win streak in his first North American engagement with a powerful stretch run to capture the eighth renewal of the grueling two-mile endurance test for older horses over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.
Trained in Ireland by Joseph O’Brien, Baron Samedi joined fellow European invaders Red Cardinal , Call To Mind  and Amade  to conquer the Belmont Gold Cup.
Baron Samedi won over grounds rated heavy, soft, yielding and good as well as distances ranging from 1 ¼ miles to 1 ¾ miles in Europe. It wasn’t until sixth asking that the light bulb went on for the son of Harbour Watch in August 2020 at Cork Racecourse. From there, he has passed every test thrown his way, including a triumph in the Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris on October 25 at Longchamp. He arrived off a narrow win in the Group 3 Vintage Crop at Navan exactly six months later, defeating last year’s Irish Derby winner Santiago.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez placed the 4-year-old bay gelding in midpack as longshot So High recorded an opening quarter-mile in 24.37 seconds. The frontrunner extended his advantage through a half-mile in 50.11 and three quarters in 1:15.48 over the yielding turf as they passed the stands the first time around.
Down the backstretch, So High relinquished as Conviction Trade took command by a length as the two runners paced the rest of the field by seven lengths.
Through 1 1/4 miles in 2:08.61, Velazquez started to get busy aboard Baron Samedi along the hedge and moved up into fourth around the far turn. In upper stretch, Baron Samedi weaved his way a few paths to the outside and overtook So High, who re-rallied around the far turn to take back command.
Despite lugging out a couple of times late in the lane, Baron Samedi’s class prevailed as he completed the two-mile journey in a final time of 3:27.30.
Fantasioso finished a game second, one length ahead of Ajourneytofreedom in third.
The triumph was a second North American graded stakes triumph for O’Brien, who saddled Iridessa to a win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2019. As a jockey, O’Brien piloted St. Nicholas Abbey to victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2011 for his father Aidan O’Brien.
Heavy rain stormed through the Nassau Country region an hour before the Belmont Gold Cup, resulting in ample cut in the ground. But given Baron Samedi’s versatility over various turf courses, O’Brien said he wasn’t the least bit concerned.
“Baron Samedi is a very good horse and Johnny gave him a great ride. He hadn’t been that far before, but he had handled that kind of track before, so we weren’t worried about the rain,” O’Brien said. “We just worried about them taking the race off the turf. I’m very proud of our team and a big thanks to the owners for allowing us to do this.”
Velazquez said he never felt his charge fatigue.
“This horse just doesn’t get tired, he just keeps coming and coming,” said Velazquez, who captured the inaugural 2014 Belmont Gold Cup aboard Charming Kitten. “But I had to ride him because he’s kind of slow-paced. He’s a grinder; just keeps coming and coming. I didn’t want to end up being a little too soon, so I thought I’d better just keep him going. He did everything good. Once we got to the three-eighths pole I was riding him and getting to where I wanted to be and he gave me a good feeling from then on. The course was very soft, but he handled it well. No complaints.”
Baron Samedi more than doubled his lifetime earnings, taking home $220,000 and upping his bankroll to $372,757. Returning $4.60 as the favorite, he now boasts a record of 12-7-0-0.
Runner-up Fantasioso recorded his best result in three starts since moving to the Northern Hemisphere from his native Argentina for trainer Ignacio Correas.
“I feel that the horse that won was the horse to beat and he beat us fair and square,” Correas said. “I’m very happy and we are all happy with his performance. A friend of mine recommended him and we got him for a pretty inexpensive price and he is obviously a very good horse.”
Completing the order of finish were Kinenos, So High, Ziyad, Conviction Trade, Strong Tide and Tide of the Sea.
Belmont Gold Cup replay
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival continues Saturday and is headlined by the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. Belmont Stakes Day will feature nine graded stakes, including eight Grade 1s, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.
First post on Saturday is 11:35 a.m. Eastern.
For info on our Belmont Stakes Day seminar click here
Belmont Park Press Release by Ryan Martin
Photo: Baron Samedi (NYRA/Chelsea Durand)