One of the biggest races during the fall Belmont meeting is the feature race on Super Saturday, tomorrow afternoon. The $750,000 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup (JCGC) for 3-year-olds and upward drew seven horses bidding for a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a victory.
There will be two 3-year-old colts in the gate at Belmont Park in Race 10 on Saturday. In the last 11 editions of the Gold Cup, a 3-year-old has won the race four times (Bernardini, Curlin, Summer Bird, and Tonalist).
Pavel (5-2), the Smarty Jones winner who skipped the Pennsylvania Derby, will be in the gate looking for a free pass to Del Mar as a “Win and You’re In” (WAYI) contest. The other 3-year-old is Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan (8-1)who will look to improve off a fifth-place effort in the Travers.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will have three of the JGGC entries, including the morning line favorite Keen Ice (9-5). He’ll also send 2016 Belmont Stakes runner-up Destin (12-1) and this year’s Woodward runner-up Rally Cry (6-1) to post.
Most figure Keen Ice is the one to beat after his big win in the Suburban and a solid runner-up effort behind Gun Runner in the Whitney. I’m leaning towards Diversify (7-2) the Evan Shipman winner at Saratoga for trainer Rick Violette. The Bellamy Road gelding drew the rail and has the talented Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons for owners Robert and Lauren Evans.
Over the weekend, Belmont Park will also host three other WAYI races. On Saturday the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne Stakes is a qualifier for the BC Juvenile. On Sunday, the Grade 1 Frizette (Juvenile Fillies) and the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational (Filly & Mare Turf) will present one-way tickets to San Diego for the winners.
When it comes to golden quotes, trainer Eric Guillot never fails to disappoint. From the NYRA advance of the Champagne on Stronger, the Southern Equine 2-year-old: “Stronger really wants to go two turns, but a lot of the bigger number horses are coming off sprints at Saratoga and have to prove they can get the one-turn mile. It could turn into a battle up front and the dragon-slayer will have to take the sword out and behead them at the wire."
I think he’s read one too many Harry Potter books.
Ok, I have a really good idea for the recently maligned Boltman, the pseudo-Charger unofficial mascot who has been booted out of the StubHub Center, the temporary home of the San Diego Chargers. He should ditch the Chargers, head straight to Del Mar and support wonder colt Bolt d’Oro in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It’s in San Diego (former home of the Chargers). He runs like a lightning bolt.
Horse racing will be there for you Bolt Man, with open arms. I think.
I’m going to knock off a couple bucket list items this year. A Fenway Park trip in July and the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar will take two off my respective lists. Saturday, instead of heading down to Keeneland, I’ll attend my first ever football game at the Horseshoe when Ohio State tackles Maryland.
Speaking of Keeneland, it will be interesting to see the affect the HANA-induced boycott will have on handle in response to the takeout increase there.
Unique Bella is back this weekend in the LA Woman at Santa Anita, a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She’s been working like a monster on her way to her first start since March 4. Watch out.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.