As we approach the quarter pole of the racing year and head down the stretch to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, this weekend serves as a big weekend of racing.
Prep races for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the climactic event of the racing season on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park will be held at Belmont Park, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs.
At Santa Anita, top older horses McKinzie and Seeking the Soul will square off in the $300,000 Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes. This is also a “Win and You’re In” race for the Classic. The Awesome Again will be shown on NBCSN starting at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Churchill Downs will host the $250,000 Grade 3 Lukas Classic where Tenfold and Quip will renew their rivalry under the Twin Spires.
It’s a super Saturday at Belmont Park with a bevy of big races in various divisions. The $750,000 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup will headline a card with three other graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Vosburgh. The Vosburgh is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
America's Day at the Races will present live national television coverage of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day at Belmont Park from 2:30-6:30 p.m. on FS2.
The “Win and You’re In” Jockey Club Gold Cup drew a small field of five for the big money stake that will decide a berth in the Classic. Two top colts who thrived on the 3-year-old trail earlier in the year will face elders for the first time on Saturday at Belmont. Both Tacitus and Code of Honor will tackle the 1 1/4-mile trek around Big Sandy against three other older horses, including Preservationist, the Woodward winner.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis) which will be run as Race 10 at 5:49 p.m. at Belmont Park:
1 – Tacitus (Mott, Ortiz, 5-2). Hard luck colt has finished second three straight times as the post time favorite, with excuses or trouble encountered in each circumstance. Law of averages says he finally breaks through at a distance he has shown he has no issues taking on. Beaten fairly soundly by Code of Honor in the Travers after running much closer to the pace than we’ve seen in past races likely was his undoing. He’s a tough colt to figure out, but has picked up some big checks along the way.
2 – Code of Honor (McGaughey, Velazquez, 8-5). Travers winner showed his maturity in handling the classic distance at Saratoga and has moved forward after a solid showing in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Noble Mission has Hall of Famer connections leading him to the gate. He could make a big move at the 3-year-old divisional crown by beating older horses as Maximum Security idles at Monmouth Park after his latest setback. Very logical.
3 – Vino Rosso (Pletcher, Ortiz, Jr., 7-2). After having to scratch out of the Woodward, TAP pointed the son of Curlin at this race on his home base. He could garner his second Gold Cup of the year after winning at Santa Anita to claim his first Grade 1 win in March. Tremendous connections, but the layoff since the Whitney is troubling and he might need a race.
4 – Preservationist (Jerkens, Alvarado, 9-5). Alvarado had a decent Saratoga meet topped by his Woodward win aboard the son of Arch. This late blooming 6-year-old stepped up with a win at the distance at the same configuration at Belmont on Belmont Stakes weekend in the Grade 2 Suburban. It’s only his 11th career race, so while he is an old timer by age, he’s fairly lightly raced due to time missed early in his career. The one to beat.
5 – Olympic Village (Hess, Castellano, 30-1). First time stepping into graded stakes company, this 3-year-old has won three straight, but the waters are much deeper in here against four solid stakes horses. He’d have to make a major move forward to spring a huge upset.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Preservationist; 2 – Code of Honor; 3 – Tacitus
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.