Eleven Interesting Facts About the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

English-bred Ectot scored a frontrunning upset win in the 2016 Joe Hirsch Classic, becoming the tenth winner of the race bred in Europe. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic is a marquee race for turf routers that has attracted some of the top grass horses of the last four decades. Belmont Park hosts this year’s race on Saturday, offering the winner a guaranteed place in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf starting gate at Del Mar on Nov. 4.

Brush up on your Joe Hirsch Turf Classic history with the fun facts below.

1. The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was formerly known simply as the Turf Classic, and then the Turf Classic Invitational. It was renamed in 2004 to honor legendary turf writer Joe Hirsch.

2. Four fillies have won five editions of the race, none since All Along was victorious in 1983. All Along’s win was the fourth straight by a female.

3. The race is open to 3-year-olds and older, though there have only been seven 3-year-olds win the race and none since 2004, when future champion Kitten’s Joy was a 2 ½ length victor. Channel Maker and Oscar Performance will try this year.

4. The betting favorite has won 10 of the last 25 editions of the race, but only two of the last eight. The average winning price in the last eight years is 8.76-1, making the average payoff $19.52 on a $2 win bet.

5. Both 2005 winner Shakespeare and 2010 winner Winchester are sons of 1987 winner Theatrical, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf and be named champion grass male.

Cape Blanco wins the 2011 Joe Hirsch. (Eclipse Sportswire)

6. The race has been a staple at New York tracks since 1977 when it was first run at Aqueduct, making this year the 42nd running. It was first run at Belmont in 1979 and later moved there permanently in 1984.

7. Interpatation won the 2009 race at odds of 43.75-1, paying $89.50 for a $2 win ticket. He was the longest-priced winner of the race in the last 25 years.

8. Ten winners of 11 editions of the race were bred in Europe, including last year’s British-bred winner Ectot. Irish-bred filly April Run won consecutive editions of the race in 1981-82.

9. Trainer Chad Brown has three chances to win his second Turf Classic in three years with 2017 contenders Beach Patrol, Fanciful Angel, and Money Multiplier. He won in 2015 with Big Blue Kitten.

10. Four Joe Hirsch Turf Classic winners went on to be named champion turf horse for the year since the turn of the century: Main Sequence (2014), Cape Blanco (2011), English Channel (2007, he also won the Turf Classic in ’06), and Kitten’s Joy (2004).

11. Since Manila’s Turf Classic-Breeders’ Cup Turf double in 1987, five other horses have completed the same feat. Seven more finished in the top three of the Breeders’ Cup Turf after winning the Turf Classic.

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