Chief's Crown beat some of the best older horses in the nation in the $500,000 Marlboro Cup Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., and the talk was of championships for the 3-year-old and vindication for his jockey, Don MacBeth.
Chief's Crown, moving into contention on the turn and taking the lead with a quarter of a mile left, defeated Gate Dancer by a neck in 2:01 1/5 for the 1 miles and charged back into the 3-year-old championship picture--or more, in the eyes of trainer Roger Laurin.
Asked if the victory might have given Chief's Crown the leadership of the 3-year-old division over Spend a Buck, the Kentucky Derby winner and $2-million bonus colt whose retirement was announced Saturday by owner Dennis Diaz, Laurin said: "I'll give him the 3-year-old championship as long as we're Horse of the Year.
"I think people who are going to vote for us are going to vote for us, and people who are going to vote for Spend a Buck are going to vote for him. They look at the records and make up their minds."
The victory of Chief's Crown, whose win in the Travers on Aug. 17 helped make up some of the disappointment over his three losses as the favorite in the Triple Crown series, might change some minds of those voting for the Eclipse Awards.
While the victory was "one of the most satisfying races" for Laurin, it was at least equally satisfying for MacBeth, who was fired as Chief's Crown's rider by owner Andrew Rosen after the colt's loss to Tank's Prospect in the Preakness May 18.
"I can't feel sorry about anything," Rosen said of the dismissal of MacBeth. "But he rode him well today. We have confidence in him; that's why we put him up."
"It felt really good to be back on the horse," said MacBeth, who rode Chief's Crown to the juvenile championship last year and in his first five starts this year. "I never gave up the hope of riding him again."
Chief's Crown was the only 3-year-old in the nine-horse Marlboro field.
Chief's Crown's victory, his second in his last three starts, was worth $23, $11.20 and $6.
With a crowd of 30,118 roaring on a cool, sunny day, Chief's Crown, carrying 119 pounds, got to the end of the 1 miles miles just ahead of Gate Dancer, 125. Vanlandingham, 122, was three-quarters of a length in back of Gate Dancer and a head in front of English-bred and California-based Greinton.
Favored Track Barron, ridden by Angel Cordero, was third entering the final turn but then faded out of contention.
Gate Dancer, the 1984 Preakness winner owned by Kenneth Opstein and ridden by Chris McCarron, returned $9.80 and $7. Vanlandingham, owned by Loblolly Stable and ridden by Pat Day, paid $6.60 to show. Completing the order of finish after Greinton were Carr de Naskra, Al Mamoon, Badwagon Harry, Track Barron and Bounding Basque.
The victory for Chief's Crown was his fifth in 10 starts this year and was worth $300,000, which boosted his career earnings to $1,976,168.
Oh So Sharp, ridden by American jockey Steve Cauthen, scored a half-length victory in the 1 3/4-mile, $160,000 St. Leger at St. Leger, England, the filly's third Classic series success of the season.
Already winner of the English 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, favored Oh So Sharp completed the fillies' Triple Crown by fighting off determined challenges by runner-up Phardante, ridden by Greville Starkey, and third-place Lanfranco, with Lester Piggott.
It was Cauthen's fourth Classic win of the season. Besides his three successes on Oh So Sharp, he also rode Slip Anchor to victory in the English Derby at Epsom.