July 23, 2024

Loft maintains European stranglehold on Belmont Gold Cup

Loft wins the Belmont Gold Cup (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

For the fifth year in succession, the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup (G2) proved ripe for the taking by a European shipper. The German gelding Loft did the honors in Friday’s $400,000 renewal at Belmont Park, rolling from well off the pace to set a new course record in 3:16.68.

Like reigning Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) hero Torquator Tasso, Loft is a son of Adlerflug trained by Marcel Weiss. Andrasch Starke picked up the mount when regular rider Rene Piechulek was grounded by visa problems, and masterminded the winning trip.

Loft was making his first transatlantic venture after capturing the May 15 Oleander-Rennen (G2) at Hoppegarten. That four-year-old debut, also his first try at about two miles, earned him a spot in the Belmont Gold Cup, and the Gestut Hof Ittlingen homebred promptly retained his perfect mark at the distance.

Usually a handy type to race in touch with the pace, Loft ended up settling farther back as Starke’s mental clock proved accurate. Abaan, the 2.15-1 favorite, sped to his customary front-running position. British invader Outbox rushed up after a slow start to attend Abaan through fractions of :49.56, 1:37.96, and 2:28.22 on the firm Widener course.

Outbox was done by their second pass of the far turn. Strong Tide, who had been tracking in third, advanced to challenge Abaan and took charge turning for home.

By that point, Starke had given Loft his cue, and the 2.70-1 second choice was kicking into high gear. Although Strong Tide continued to hold sway to midstretch, Loft had the irresistible momentum. The progressive four-year-old stormed clear by 3 1/4 lengths.

British Royalty stayed on late to nip Strong Tide for second. There was a 2 3/4-length gap to Cibolian in fourth, and the rest – Abaan, Box N Score, Outbox, and Novo Sol – were well strung out behind.

“I saw there was a lot of space,” Starke said, “and the front horses were already under pressure. I didn’t want to go so wide, but I still waited during the last turn and moved to the outside. He was making up ground well.

“There was a lot of pace during the race and I trusted my horse. I didn’t want to get in a hurry. I was traveling well around the bend. I had a horse in front of me and I had to shift out. He made no consequences and he ran a good race.”

Loft’s resume now reads 11-3-4-2, $331,664. The bay turned the corner when stretching out to longer trips, and gelding also helped. After a six-length maiden-breaking score in the Stehercup at Baden-Baden last August, Loft placed second to Aff Un Zo in the Deutsches St Leger (G3) and Silbernes Pferd (G3) in his final outings of 2021.

Loft is the latest member of his family to enhance his record in North America. Also representing Manfred Ostermann’s Ittlingen establishment were Lauro, the 2008 Sky Classic (G2) winner who was runner-up in the Red Smith H. (G2) and 2009 United Nations (G1), and Laccario, the 2019 German Derby (G1) champ who was second in the 2020 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and Hollywood Turf Cup.

Loft’s dam, the Group 3-placed Labrice, is a Dubawi half-sister to Italian Group 1 victress Lovelyn. Second dam Laurella is a full sister to superstar Lando and a half to Laroche, both German Derby heroes.

With his deep pedigree and upwardly mobile profile, Loft appears bound for a globetrotting career in the staying ranks.