Yibir Returns to Belmont Park as Favorite for Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes
Last fall, Yibir showcased his talent at Belmont Park, scoring a remarkable victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Now, the British colt is back at the same venue where he triumphed for his first American win, and he enters Saturday’s Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes as the favorite. This 1 3/8-mile race serves as Belmont Park’s first Grade 1 event of 2022 and takes center stage in the track’s 11-race card, which features five graded stakes races. The Man o’ War is slated as the eighth race of the day.
Yibir: A Champion on Turf
Yibir’s clutch victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf earned him the prestigious Eclipse Award for Male Turf Horse of the Year. This accolade solidifies his status as the one to watch in the upcoming Man o’ War Stakes. However, Yibir is still in pursuit of his first victory of 2022, and there is no better place to achieve it than the track where he tasted success for the first time in the United States. In the Jockey Club Derby Invitational last September, Yibir emerged victorious, setting the stage for his thrilling come-from-behind triumph over Broome in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. This race, considered the second most prominent event of the day, next to the Classic, secured Yibir’s Eclipse Award as the Champion Male Turf Horse. Notably, his triumphs in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket and the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York served as impressive accomplishments leading up to his triumph in the US.
The Love for American Tracks
Trainer Charlie Appleby was delighted with Yibir’s performance during his previous visit to Belmont Park. He emphasized the significance of the colt gaining experience on American tracks and familiarizing himself with the running style of the competition. While Yibir may sometimes lag behind in races, he showcases a remarkable ability to surge ahead when it matters most. Appleby and his team retain their confidence in Yibir’s capabilities and expect him to be a formidable contender in Saturday’s race. Yibir’s return to the winner’s circle is eagerly anticipated, especially given his commendable runner-up finishes in both the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic and the Group 2 Jockey Club.
Wild Trip to Start the 4-Year-Old Season
Yibir’s first start as a 4-year-old was nothing short of eventful. In the prestigious Dubai Sheema Classic, he put on an awe-inspiring rally, surging from 15th and last place to finish a narrow second, just a neck behind multiple Group 1-winner Shahryar. Jockey William Buick skillfully guided him outside and along the center of the track to unleash his powerful finish. Appleby expressed his satisfaction with this performance, highlighting the significance of Yibir’s affinity for tracks like Meydan and Belmont, which have more conventional, flat galloping characteristics. It appears that American tracks suit Yibir’s running style exceptionally well.
A Prep for Success
Appleby utilized the Newmarket race as a preparatory event for the Man o’ War Stakes. Despite Yibir being the beaten favorite on that day, the trainer does not view it as a setback. European tracks do not seem to suit Yibir as much as their American counterparts. The most important aspect was that Yibir gained valuable race experience and emerged from the event in good form. Regular communication between Appleby’s team and the officials at Belmont Park ensures that they are satisfied with Yibir’s transportation and training leading up to the race.
Gufo: Yibir’s Worthy Rival in the Man o’ War Stakes
While Yibir enters the race as the favorite, he will face stiff competition from Gufo, a 5-year-old horse sired by Declaration of War. Gufo began his 2022 season with a victory in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park. Like Yibir, Gufo is well-traveled, having competed at four different tracks in his last four races: Gulfstream, Del Mar, Belmont, and Saratoga. Gufo has also proven to be proficient on the Belmont Turf, boasting a record of 2 wins, 1 second, and 2 thirds in five starts at the Big Sandy.
A Love for Distance
In addition to his affinity for Belmont Park, Gufo thrives at longer distances. His most recent five starts were all contested at 1 1/2 miles, with the exception of a disappointing 10th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. During this stretch, Gufo emerged triumphant in three races, including the prestigious Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, where he rallied strongly from seventh and last place. His only non-podium finish in 15 races was that 10th-place effort, showcasing his consistency and competitiveness. Trimming the distance to 1 3/8 miles for the Man o’ War Stakes is unlikely to faze trainer Christophe Clement, who believes that Gufo can handle both distances with ease.
An Exciting Clash Awaits
The highly anticipated Man o’ War Stakes promises a thrilling clash between Yibir and Gufo. With Yibir seeking his first victory of the year and Gufo displaying his prowess at longer distances, spectators can expect an intense battle on the Belmont Turf. These two talented horses, along with their esteemed trainers, have their sights set on success in this prestigious Grade 1 race.
The Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park is set to showcase the talents of Yibir and Gufo, two exceptional turf horses. Yibir’s previous victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and his Eclipse Award win as the Champion Male Turf Horse solidify his status as the favorite. However, Gufo’s impressive performances at longer distances and his affinity for the Belmont Turf make him a worthy rival. Horse racing enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the spectacle that will unfold in this highly anticipated race.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How did Yibir secure his Eclipse Award as Champion Male Turf Horse?
Yibir secured his Eclipse Award as Champion Male Turf Horse with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Broome in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. His triumph in this marquee event, along with notable wins in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy and the Group 2 Great Voltigeur, propelled him to receive this prestigious accolade.
2. Why do American tracks suit Yibir’s running style?
Yibir’s running style thrives on the more conventional, flat galloping tracks found in America. Tracks like Belmont and Meydan provide the ideal conditions for his racing prowess, allowing him to showcase his ability to surge ahead at the right moment.
3. How does Gufo perform at longer distances?
Gufo enjoys competing at longer distances, as demonstrated by his successful outings in races contested at 1 1/2 miles. With impressive victories and consistent performances, Gufo has proven his proficiency in stamina-driven races.
4. Who is Yibir’s trainer?
Yibir is trained by Charlie Appleby, a highly respected figure in the world of horse racing. Appleby’s expertise and guidance have played a pivotal role in Yibir’s success on both domestic and international stages.
5. Will Yibir and Gufo meet again in future races?
As talented turf horses, Yibir and Gufo may cross paths in future races. Their impressive performances and highly anticipated clash in the Man o’ War Stakes have captured the attention of racing enthusiasts. The potential for future encounters between these exceptional competitors adds excitement to the evolving narrative of their careers.