Minutes after veteran stablemate Walton Street conquered the Canadian International (G1), Yibir completed a rapid-fire double for Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby in Saturday’s $980,000 Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park. The British shipper delivered a powerful, last-to-first rush to dominate the “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Coming off a similar rally to win the Aug. 18 Great Voltigeur (G2) at York, Yibir was let go as the 2.65-1 third choice in this first international foray. The mercurial character appeared unusually lackadaisical in the early going with new rider Jamie Spencer, and even entering the final turn, his fans had to wonder if he were more interested in playing tourist.
Up front, Tango Tango Tango established fractions of :25.37, :49.45, 1:14.46, and 1:39.50 on the firm Widener turf. Slicked Back, the 19.50-1 longest shot on the board, applied pressure, while 2.15-1 favorite Bolshoi Ballet also raced handy on the outside, flanking Soldier Rising.
On the far turn, Slicked Back accosted Tango Tango Tango. Bolshoi Ballet was under a drive and unable to keep in Soldier Rising, who was traveling much better as he muscled his way out for room.
But their little skirmishes were soon overwhelmed by the force of Yibir. Once the Dubawi gelding got the message to go, he engulfed the field out wide and stamped his authority. Yibir hung left across the course and ended up on the rail, but it didn’t matter since his rivals weren’t near enough to be impeded. The chestnut crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths clear and clocked 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.23
Soldier Rising was best of the rest, a neck up on Slicked Back. Jockey Irad Ortiz would have preferred to stoke Soldier Rising up earlier, but acknowledged to NYRA publicity that he was playing second fiddle to Yibir.
“He ran well, he just got beat by a good horse,” Ortiz recapped. “I got a good position. I can’t complain. I wish I could get out earlier than the quarter pole. He takes some time to get going. When I finally got out of there in the clear, the other horse (Yibir) was full of run already. When he hit the clear, he started getting there. He took a couple of strides and he kicked on. No excuses, he was just second best. He’s a nice horse.”
Bolshoi Ballet tired to fourth, another 2 3/4 lengths back, as though this third trek across the Atlantic was a bit too much. Tokyo Gold, last seen finishing second to Bolshoi Ballet in the Belmont Derby (G1) got closer to him in the rematch when just a neck behind in fifth. Next came Step Dancer and the tailed-off Tango Tango Tango. Experienced was withdrawn.
Yibir has been a work in progress, as recounted in the Jockey Club Derby international scouting report. A close third to Alenquer and future star Adayar in an exceptional renewal of the Apr. 23 Sandown Classic Trial (G3), he was only fourth in the May 6 Dee S. at Chester and a well-beaten second in the May 21 Cocked Hat S. at Goodwood. Yibir was then gelded, putting an end to his European classic aspirations but giving him the best chance of realizing his potential. He immediately responded by winning the July 8 Bahrain Trophy (G3), but regressed to a rank sixth in the July 29 Gordon (G3) at Glorious Goodwood. Thus Appleby prescribed a hood, and Yibir has looked like a different animal at York and Belmont.
Assistant trainer Chris Connett described Yibir’s strong form coming into the Jockey Club Derby:
“He won a really nice race in England before we came over (the Great Voltigeur), and he traveled over one week ago. He did a blowout on Thursday, and we were very happy with that. It was all systems go for today.
“That last race worked out really well. The horse who was second (The Mediterranean) went on and finished third in the St. Leger (G1) behind Hurricane Lane (also trained by Appleby) so the form was very solid. As long as he handled the travel over here, we were very confident he would run a big race.
“The ground wasn’t so much of a problem. He can be a bit of a quirky character, so it was more of a matter of if he kept his head right. When they jumped out and wasn’t really going a lick, I thought ‘Oh, he’s never done that before,’ but Jamie (Spencer) gave him a great ride and coaxed him into it. Once he started to roll, he’s got some engine on him.”
Yibir’s scorecard now stands at 11-5-1-2, and his Belmont windfall boosted his bankroll to $815,545. The British homebred is out of the stakes-winning Monsun mare Rumh, making him a full brother to multiple Group 1 vixen Wild Illusion, runner-up to Sistercharlie in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Rumh, herself a close relative of Grade 1 winner Royal Highness from the family of Electrocutionist, is also responsible for stakes scorer Really Special and Group 3-placed Ceratonia.
It remains to be determined if Yibir will take up his free ticket to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Aside from Yibir’s profile as one still figuring out the game, Appleby has to map out plans for his classic winners, Adayar and Hurricane Lane, who could square off in the Oct. 3 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).