After racing exclusively on dirt, Classic Causeway has found a home on turf, dynamically switching surfaces and leading wire-to-wire in Saturday’s $1 million Belmont Derby (G1). Julien Leparoux hustled the son of Giant’s Causeway to the front at the break and after facing brief early pressure, Classic Causeway dictated terms unopposed down the backstretch and through the far turn.
A pair of classy European invaders, 2-1 favorite Nations Pride and 5-2 second choice Stone Age, desperately tried to catch the pacesetter in deep stretch, but Classic Causeway kept finding more to the wire, prevailing by three-quarters of a length.
“The plan was to go on the lead,” Leparoux said. “The only time I was a little worried was in the first turn when Joel (Rosario, aboard Royal Patronage) was kind of head-to-head with me. When he took back, my horse got to cruising and happy to be on the lead. I was getting him to relax nicely and switch off. It was a good run for him.”
Following opening fractions in :23.55, :48.02, and 1:12.33, Classic Causeway completed the 1 1/4-mile turf affair in 1:59.99.
It was a tight pack of runners behind the winner. Nations Pride edged Stone Age by a head for second, and it was another neck to Grand Sonata in fourth. Royal Patronage and Sy Dog just missed minor awards in fifth and sixth. Limited Liability, Machete, Tiz the Bomb, Implementation, Napoleonic War, and Stolen Base rounded out the order of finish.
A homebred colt for Patrick O’Keefe’s West Racing and Clarke Cooper, Classic Causeway was initially trained by Brian Lynch. The twice stakes-placed juvenile recorded his first stakes wins in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) earlier this season, and he was transferred to Kenny McPeek following an 11th in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The chestnut made a quick turnaround in the Belmont Derby, finishing third 14 days earlier in the Ohio Derby (G3).
“He was actually feeling pretty fresh today,” Leparoux said. “It was Kenny’s idea to wheel him right back on the grass, and it paid off today for sure.”
He’s now earned $1,106,100 from a 9-4-1-2 ledger, and the Kentucky-bred is first stakes scorer from multiple stakes-winning Private World, a daughter of Thunder Gulch.
Classic Causeway will look to back up his turf success in the $1 million Saratoga Derby (G1) on Aug. 6.