ELMONT, N.Y. – Friday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup at Belmont Park was won for the fifth consecutive edition by an invading European and second by a German-based horse when Ostermann Manfred’s Loft raised the roof and lowered the course record in the two-mile test of stamina.
The Marcel Weiss trainee won by a widening 3 1/4-lengths over Canadian classic winner British Royalty, crossing the wire in a time of 3:16.68 over the firm Widener turf course.
Ridden by five-time German champion jockey Andrasch Starke, substituting for Rene Piechulek whose visa troubles prohibited him from coming stateside, the bay charge gave his conditioner a second significant international success of the past year, having shocked the racing world with another son of Adlerflug, 72-1 Torquator Tasso, in France’s 2021 Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Ridden patiently from post one, the bay 4-year-old gelding settled in seventh of eight through healthy early fractions of a half-mile in 49.56, six furlongs in 1:13.39, and one mile in 1:37.96 set by 2-1 favorite Abaan and Luis Saez, flanked by UK-based 3-1 third choice Outboxand Hollie Doyle.
Starke did not panic entering the backstretch for the second time of the three-turn affair and was even more unbothered when his mount shifted back to last entering the far turn through 12 furlongs in 2:28.22, as British Royalty and Box N Score made their moves to his inside and outside and Abaan began to shrug off Outbox at the fore.
Waiting until inside the three-furlong-pole to launch his bid, Loft stormed past all but two horses – a driving British Royalty and fading Abaan – before pulling clear once he changed his leads. The victory was his third career triumph from 11 starts and improved his career bankroll to $331,675.
“Amazing [performance],” Weiss said. “If we have the chance, we will come back.”
Starke said a patient trip was key.
“I saw there was a lot of space and the front horses were already under pressure,” Starke said. “I didn’t want to go so wide, but I still waited during the last turn and moved to the outside. He was making up ground well. There was a lot of pace during the race and I trusted my horse,” he continued. “I didn’t want to get in a hurry. I was traveling well around the bend. I had a horse in front of me and I had to shift out. He made no consequences and he ran a good race.”
British Royalty, with Joel Rosario up, and Outbox had poor adjacent starts, with the former striking the gate and forcing the latter out while in a tangle.
“I thought I was going to be a little bit closer, but he looked like he put himself further back,” Rosario said. “Then he came with a run after that horse got the jump on me before turning for home. I thought for a second, we were going to come and get it, but he kept going. He ran good. A two-mile race is an unusual distance, so it’s always a concern. But he did good, and he hung in there. It looked like he had no problem with it.”
Strong Tide, who stalked throughout and gamely chased home the top two under Dylan Davis, was third a nose astern British Royalty. Cibolian, Abaan, Box N Score, Outbox and Novo Sol completed the order of finish.
“He ran great,” Davis said. “I thought he had a great chance. I know he was 20-1 but he had a really tough trip last time [in the Grade 3 Louisville] and he was better than that race. It’s a firmer course now and he really wanted to be comfortable, and he switched off for me. I saved all the ground and I got excited turning for home. He felt great. Once he started taking command at the three-eighths pole, I just wanted him to keep his stride going, so I started getting into him turning for home. I tried to hold on for second.”
Next races are undetermined for the winner, who had exited a professional victory in Hoppegarten’s Group 2 Oleander-Rennen, and appears a staying star on the rise.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont Park with a 13-race Belmont Stakes Day card boasting eight Grade 1 events, highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. First post is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the spring/summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Michael Adolphson
Photo of Loft by NYRA/Coglianese