ELMONT, N.Y. — For the second straight race, Beach Patrol and Fanciful Angel ran 1-2 in a Grade 1 stakes, but this time Beach Patrol left no doubt who the better horse was with a dominant five-length victory in the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.
Taking over from the pace-setting Converge, a 147-1 longshot, midway around the far turn, Beach Patrol put aside a bid from Oscar Performance in upper stretch and ran away from the field impressively. Fanciful Angel, beaten a half-length by Beach Patrol in the Arlington Million in August, was well back in second, but did win a nose decision over Oscar Performance. It was a length back to Sadler’s Joy, the lukewarm 7-2 favorite, in fourth.
Ascend, the Grade 1 Manhattan winner, finished fifth and was followed, in order, by Channel Maker, Tricked Up, Money Multiplier, The Grey Gatsby, Mekhtaal, and Converge.
The Joe Hirsch offered the winner a fees-paid berth into the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 4. However, Beach Patrol had already earned that by virtue of his win in the Arlington Million.
What Beach Patrol showed Saturday — in his first attempt at 1 1/2 miles — is that he could be competitive in a top-level race at that distance.
“He obviously passed the test with flying colors,” winning trainer Chad Brown said. “My gut told me he’d have no problem with a mile and a half, you don’t know til you try. I’d be more concerned about the competition. He’s a top horse and deserves a place in this race for sure and he’s formidable. As we know, it’s an international event and anyone can show up.”
Though the turf course was labeled firm for the Joe Hirsch, a quarter of an inch of rain fell earlier in the day and large divots were being kicked up on the turf, giving it the look of a soft course.
Oscar Performance, a 3-year-old taking on older horses for the first time, broke on top but Converge, under Eric Cancel, was sent to the front, presumably acting as a rabbit for the 168-1 shot Tricked Up, both trained by Naipaul Chatterpaul.
Converge had a seven-length lead through a half-mile in 48.23 seconds while Joel Rosario had Beach Patrol comfortably in second, a length in front of Oscar Performance and Jose Ortiz.
Midway around the far turn Beach Patrol took over from Converge and Oscar Performance followed Beach Patrol. But Rosario asked Beach Patrol to run and she kicked away from Oscar Performance to win impressively.
Beach Patrol, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, owned by Sheep Pond Partners, James Covello and Head of Plains Partners, covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.29 and returned $12 to win.
“When I let him know it was time to go, he kept elevating himself,” Rosario said. “It was a really good performance.”
Brown was impressed with Fanciful Angel, who was making his first start for him after a private purchase following his runner-up finish in the Arlington Million.
“We haven’t had a lot of time with that horse, if we have a little more time with that horse we might see some more improvement from him,” Brown said.
Brian Lynch, the trainer of Oscar Performance, thought his horse ran well but was disappointed he lost the bob for second. Lynch seemed to be leaning against running in the Breeders’ Cup, but didn’t rule it out.
“I think we need to digest it a little bit and think about it,” Lynch said. “He is only 3, so there’s no rush. There’s always next year for them sort of races. We’ll regroup with him here and let the dust settle.”