By Ryan Martin
ELMONT, N.Y. – European invader Amade made a wide move down the stretch to get the better of two-time graded stakes winner Arklow and win the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational by a neck on Friday afternoon at Belmont Park.
The Irish-bred son of Casamento stayed off the pace set by fellow European invader Mootasadir, who set an opening quarter-mile in 25.33 seconds and a half in 52.07 with Raa Atoll sitting a half-length behind him in second. With half of the journey covered in 1:43.66, Amade began inching his way up from seventh, and was tipped out into the four path coming off the far turn. Under strong urging from jockey Flavien Prat, Amade kicked into high gear and stormed down the middle of the course past Canessar, Highland Sky, Red Knight and Arklow to hit the wire in 3:19.95 for two miles over the firm turf course.
Arklow finished second, one length ahead of 28-1 longshot Highland Sky. Completing the order of finish were Cannesar, Red Knight, Raa Atoll, Mootasadir and Noble Thought.
“We had a good trip all the way around there, just cruising, and he gave me a good kick turning for home,” Prat said. “He responded well when [Arklow] came down the inside. He ducked out, but it seems like he likes to be on the outside by himself, so I let him do it. [Trainer Alessandro Botti] told me that the two miles wouldn’t be a problem and to be patient, and that he would give me a good kick.”
Amade was the first North American starter for Botti and became the third European-based horse to win the Gold Cup, the fifth and final stakes on the second day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. The three-day festival concludes Saturday with an unprecedented eight Grade 1 events, capped by the 151st running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
Botti said he was using the Gold Cup as a prep for the Melbourne Cup in November at Flemington in Australia.
“Today was a test,” said the trainer. “He had to win today for, in my mind, to go on to the Melbourne Cup. He was comfortable today and it was a good race for him.
“This is the best race I have won,” Botti added. “I never won a Group race in France. I won in Italy and in Newmarket, and now here. This is my first start at Belmont and in America so I am 100 percent.”
Florent Geroux, who was aboard runner-up Arklow, said his horse never saw Amade closing far to his outside.
“I got through on the inside, beautiful trip,” Geroux said. “But when I came in, the winner already had the momentum and he was very far outside and my horse never really saw him until late. When he saw him it was like ‘OK, I’m going’ but it was a little bit too late. He had no problems with the distance. He galloped out in front of everybody.”
Never worse than second in his last seven career starts, Amade had won over the two-mile distance twice on all-weather surfaces in England. The Belmont Gold Cup victory brought up his career earnings to $355,470 after cashing $220,000 from the win. It was Amade’s eighth victory in 13 career starts.
Breaking from post 3, Amade returned $15.20 for a $2 win bet.
Bred in Ireland by Eamonn McEvoy, Amade is out of the Five Star Day broodmare Sheba Five.