Virginia Owned Highland Sky Just Misses In Saturday’s $1.25 Million Belmont Derby Invitational

In his first U.S. start, Deauville held off a late charge from Highland Sky to score a neck win in the $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) Saturday, July 9 at Belmont ParkWatch Video

After the poorest performance of his career—an 11th-place finish in the Investec Epsom Derby (Eng-I) June 14—Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor’s Deauville bounced back to secure his first top-level win in Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile test.

Highland Sky, co-owned by Virginian Bonner Young, just missed in the $1.25 Million Belmont Derby Invitational. Photo by Chelsea Durand.
Highland Sky, co-owned by Virginian Bonner Young, just missed in the $1.25 Million Belmont Derby Invitational. Photo by Chelsea Durand.

After breaking from the widest post in the field of 13 3-year-olds, Jamie Spencer and Deauville tracked longshot Toughest ‘Ombre early through a half-mile in :50.2 and six furlongs in 1:14.2. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Deauville smoothly moved to the lead in the stretch and opened a clear lead racing several paths off the rail in midstretch. New York-based Highland Sky, trained by Barclay Tagg, would launch a late rally under Luis Saez but Deauville had just enough.

“I spoke to Aidan earlier and he was adamant that if I got a good break, to be positive and lead if there wasn’t a leader,” Spencer said. “When you set them alight, sometimes they don’t switch off again. But he switched off great once he turned into the backstretch. He was full of energy and had plenty left in reserve for the stretch. He’s a hard-trained horse who was ready for the day.”

Deauville completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.51 on the firm inner turf. Rounding out the top four spots were Beach Patrol in third and Camelot Kitten fourth. The winner returned $14.60, $8.60, and $5.80 across the board. Deauville’s stablemate Long Island Sound, sent off the favorite, finished sixth.

“I saddled two good horses, the trip just worked out a little better for the winner,” said O’Brien assistant T.J. Comerford. “He finished stronger, had a good setup and was left with plenty of run. The best horse won and he gave a great effort.”

A son of Galileo (IRE), Deauville secured a group III win last year at Leopardstown and had placed in a pair of group II races this year before his classic try at Epsom.

Gerald McManis and Joyce Young’s Highland Sky secured his first grade I placing after racing last through a half mile. The stakes-winning son of Sky Mesa   has finished second in three of his past four starts, a stretch that includes a victory in the Woodhaven Stakes on the Aqueduct Racetrack turf.

“He likes to come from behind and it’s hard on him,” Tagg said. “You need a lot of luck as you have to get around 13 horses. He loses a lot of ground every time. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way he’s made and the way it works.”

Bred in Ireland by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Deauville is out of the grade III-placed Danehill mare Walklikeanegyptian, who also has produced group III winner The Corsican, also by Galileo.