The chestnut colt fought off a determined Quality Road in a long battle down the stretch to win the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Saturday by a length on a sloppy racetrack at Belmont Park.
The victory may have clinched a divisional championship for Summer Bird, who is the first 3-year-old since Easy Goer in 1989 to win the Belmont Stakes, the Travers and the Gold Cup.
"It means a lot to win the three races in New York," trainer Tim Ice said. "Its been 20 years since a three-year-old won the Belmont Stakes, the Travers, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I think it puts him in an elite group and he should be named (champion) 3-year-old colt."
Kent Desormeaux rode Summer Bird, who moved to confront Quality Road with both racing well off the rail on a surface that absorbed heavy rain throughout the day with a quarter-mile to run and hit the wire in 2:02.51 for 1 1/4 miles.
"When Kent swung him to the outside I knew he had the spot he wanted," Ice said. "(Desormeaux) said in the paddock the inside wasn't that good so he wanted him about four or five off the rail. When Summer Bird took the lead I was very confident that no one was going to get in front of him."
Desormeaux said the effort was Summer Birds best of the season.
"He was completely off the bridle, just cruising along," Desormeaux said. "Once I positioned him, he was floating, completely turned off. Hes trying to be the best horse Ive ever ridden."
Summer Bird paid $4.50, $2.80 and $2.10. Quality Road paid $3.80 and $3.80. Tizway, third of seven after setting the pace for most of the first mile, paid $6.30 to show.
Summer Birds fourth victory in eight starts this year earned $450,000 for owners Kalarikkal and Vilasini Yayerman. Since a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Summer Bird has been defeated only by Rachel Alexandra, the presumptive Horse of the Year, in the Aug. 2 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, where he was second. Ice said that the Nov. 7 Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita is the next objective for Summer Bird.
In four other stakes run Saturday at Belmont intended to serve as preps for Breeders Cup races:
_ Front-running 7-year-old gelding Interpatation, a 43-1 long shot, briefly yielded the lead to heavily favored Gio Ponti at midstretch then battled back to score a shocking 1 3/4-length upset in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. Robby Albarado rode the Bobby Barbara-trained spoiler, who ended Gio Pontis streak of wins at four. Interpatation, owned by Elliot Movorah, ran 1 1/2 miles over a very soft turf course in 2:41.22 and paid $89.50.
_ Heavy favorite 4-year-old Music Note ($2.50), ridden by Rajiv Maragh for trainer Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin Stable, won the 1 1/8-mile $600,000 Beldame for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over Unbridled Belle.
_ Kodiak Kowboy ($11.60) upset odds-on Fabulous Strike in the final strides of the $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes, the first race of the day run over a sloppy track. Shaun Bridgmohan rode the Steve Asmussen-trained 6-year-old gelding, who hit the wire a half-length in front of the 3-5 favorite in 1:10.08 for six furlongs. Kodiak Kowboy is owned by Fox Hill Farm and the Vinery Stables.
_ Four-year-old Pure Clan ($7.20) came from well behind a very slow pace set on the soft turf course and overtook Criticism to win the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational for fillies and mares by two lengths after 1 1/4 miles run in 2:12.49. Julien Leparoux rode Pure Clan for trainer Robert Holthus and owner Lakeland Farm.