Summer Bird: confirmed status as top three-year-old male in USPICTURE: Dianne Boothe/EquiSport Photos
Summer Bird wins Jockey Club duel in mud
Report: USA, Saturday
Belmont Park: Jockey Club Gold Cup (Grade 1) 1m2f, dirt, 3yo+
SUMMER BIRD (Tim Ice/Kent Desormeaux) got the better of a determined Quality Road after an exciting duel in the mud at Belmont Park as the three-year-olds routed their elders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
The son of Birdstone, trained by little-known Tim Ice, has dominated the major Grade 1 stakes in New York this year, where he also won the Belmont Stakes and the Travers at Saratoga. The Breeders' Cup Classic is now his goal.
Summer Bird, also second to the great Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell at Monmouth, is the first horse since the brilliant Easy Goer to complete that treble.
He confirmed his status as the number one three-year-old male in the States with a convincing performance in filthy conditions after prolonged heavy rain.
"He's definitely a racehorse, it doesn't matter how the track comes up," said Ice. "He won the Belmont on a fast track.
"It's been 20 years since a three-year-old won theBelmont, Travers and the Gold Cup," added the trainer. "I think it does put him in an elite group and he should be named three-year-old [champion] colt."
The Jockey Club remains one of the most prestigious races in the US outside the Breeders' Cup and Triple Crown.
Sent off a heavily supported 6-5 favourite, Summer Bird raced in third for the first six furlongs of the $750,000 event as Kent Desormeaux kept close tabs on front pair Tizway and Quality Road.
Surprisingly, Desormeaux sent his mount up to challenge fully half a mile from home, after which Summer Bird and Florida Derby winner Quality Road locked horns around the far turn.
Quality Road's stamina wasopen to question, but the one-time Kentucky Derby favourite lost little in defeat as Summer Bird asserted in the final furlong to score by a length.
Summer Bird covered the 1m2f in 2m02.51s and is now 6-1 for the Breeders' Cup Classicwith Coral.
"Kent said Summer Bird was hanging a little bit," Ice said. "He said it was a lot easier than it looked. He had horse left - he makes the lead and if you head him he's going to dig back in. I was feeling pretty confident inside the sixteenth pole."
The principals drew well clear of Tizway, who held third from late-running Grade 1 winner Macho Again, unable to land a blow of any sort from miles off the pace.
"He's trying to be the best horse I've ever ridden - he was awesome today. He pulled up quietly liked nothing ever happened."
Quality Road could also contest the Classic, although trainer Todd Pletcheris wary of the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.
Jockey John Velazquez said: "He put in a good effort - I don't think we've seen the best of him yet.
"I'm not knocking the other horse. The other horse ran a great race too - but I would like to see both horses on a dry track to see which one is the best horse."