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2023 Jockey Club Gold Cup Preview & FREE Picks | Proxy Tops Saratoga BC Classic Prep Field
Proxy (Sue Kawcyznski/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Jockey Club Gold Cup Preview & FREE Picks | Proxy Tops Saratoga BC Classic Prep Field

Aaron previews the 2023 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) from Saratoga, then gives his top picks & long shots from this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Michael Stidham-trained Proxy tops the field of 8 older males following his Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3) victory.

Can the 2022 Clark Stakes (G1) champion get his 2nd win at racing’s highest level? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Godolphin’s Grade 1 winner Proxy will make his Empire State debut in Saturday’s 105th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup going 10 furlongs for 3-year-olds and upward at Saratoga Race Course.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a “Win And You’re In” qualifier, offering an automatic entry into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita. The feature event is carded as Race 11 on Saturday’s 12-race program, which also includes the Grade 2, $500,000 Flower Bowl – a “Win And You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf – the Grade 2, $250,000 Prioress, and the listed $150,000 Harvey Pack. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.

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Proxy, a son of Tapit, is a six-time winner over four different ovals and enters from a victory in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup on July 22 going nine furlongs, where he led from start-to-finish.

The 5-year-old bay horse established clear command entering the turn before being pressed by multiple graded stakes-placed Calibrate to his outside down the backstretch. Around the far turn, the pair was joined by Whelen Springs, who was three wide nearing the quarter pole as Calibrate began to drop out of contention. Whelen Springs had dead aim on Proxy in mid-stretch, but the latter had enough left to kick clear to a 2 1/2-length triumph. Whelen Springs exited that effort to capture the Grade 3 Phillip H. Iselin on August 19 at Monmouth Park.

Proxy’s Monmouth Cup conquest came two starts following an off-the-pace win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 22, where he defeated multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Last Samurai and Grade 1-winner Stilleto Boy. Trainer Michael Stidham praised his talented earner of $2,024,970 for being able to switch things up tactically at Monmouth.

“He showed some versatility and showed us that he can adapt to the pace whatever it may be,” Stidham said. “Those are things that earlier in his career he wasn’t able to do. It gives us a little more confidence that if things don’t set up the way we expect them, he can change tactics and still run a big race.”

Proxy secured his breakthrough triumph in last year’s Grade 1 Clark on November 25 at Churchill Downs, defeating eventual Grade 1-winner West Will Power by three-quarters of a length. The effort came five months following a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster last July at Churchill Downs, where he earned a career-high 104 Beyer Speed Figure finishing five lengths back of the victorious Olympiad – last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup winner.

During his sophomore campaign, Proxy competed in a series of Kentucky Derby prep races at Fair Grounds Race Course, where he brags three of his six trips to the winner’s circle. He finished second in the Grade 3 Lecomte and the Grade 2 Risen Star before rounding out the superfecta in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

“We knew from early on that he had a lot of talent and that’s why we were so ready to give him all the time he needed and let him mature mentally and physically to where he’s at now and it’s really paying off,” Stidham said.

A Kentucky homebred, Proxy is out of the millionaire Include mare Panty Raid, who was a Grade 1-winner on both turf and all-weather. Proxy’s older half-sister Micheline, by Bernardini, was a graded stakes winner on grass and won at distances ranging from one mile to 1 5/16 miles for Stidham.

“There’s been temptation to try him on grass but when a horse is winning Grade 1s on dirt, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If things weren’t doing well, we would try the grass but certainly, that’s not even a question mark because he’s gotten so good on dirt,” Stidham said. “Micheline was real quirky about her stabling and Proxy is pretty laid back and easy to deal with. He can be a little quirky in his races, the way he runs. Sometimes, he’ll drop way out of it or other times he’ll show enough speed to be on or near the lead. Being around him and being around the barn and in his training, he’s real compliant and easy to deal with.”

Joel Rosario, a two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, has been aboard Proxy for his last three wins and will return to the irons from post 1.

Trainer Kenny McPeek will saddle Lucky Seven Stable’s Grade 1 winner Rattle N Roll, who was last seen posting a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on July 1 at Ellis Park.

The 4-year-old Connect colt earned his Grade 1 accolade in his stakes debut, when conquering the Breeders’ Futurity in October 2021 at Keeneland.

He entered the Stephen Foster from a string of three graded stakes triumphs over as many racetracks, each of which produced a triple-digit Beyer.

Rattle N Roll captured the Grade 3 Ben Ali on April 22 at Keeneland [101] before shipping to Pimlico Race Course to take the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 19 [101], followed by a triumph in the Grade 3 Blame on June 3 at Churchill Downs [100]. 

Rattle N Roll, bred in Kentucky by St. Simon Place, is out of the Johannesburg mare Jazz Tune. He was selected by McPeek for $210,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Rattle N Roll will break from post 4 in rein to Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will seek his second Jockey Club Gold Cup triumph when saddling Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Bright Future [post 8, Javier Castellano].

Bright Future defeated second-level winners by 4 3/4 lengths last out on July 21 traveling nine furlongs over the local going, where he earned a career-high 100 Beyer.

The three-time winning son of Hall of Fame inductee Curlin, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2007-08, made his lone stakes performance in the Grade 2 Brooklyn on June 10 going 12 furlongs at Belmont Park. He finished a distant eighth in his lone off-the-board placing.

“We always thought a lot of him,” said Pletcher, who saddled 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Happy Saver. “The Brooklyn didn’t go the way he had hoped, but he regrouped with a big score here and he’s trained well since.”

Bright Future appeared to be aptly named in his March 2022 debut, winning by 4 3/4 lengths going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park. After a third-place finish against winners three months later at Belmont Park, he received a freshening and returned to action with vigor, posting a 2 1/4-length score in a first level allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream Park, where he defeated eventual graded stakes winner Giant Game.

“We weren’t really thinking Triple Crown races after his maiden, but he’s always one we thought would develop into a good, solid stakes horse,” Pletcher said. “He has a lot of Curlin about him; his physical makeup, demeanor and he seems to get better as he matures.”

Bright Future was a $350,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the graded stakes placed Bellamy Road mare Sophia’s Song. His second dam Dreamscape is a full-sister to dual Champion Sprinter and Hall of Famer Housebuster.

Trainer Josie Carroll will bring a pair of formidable contenders by way of Canada in last out graded stakes-winners Tyson [post 6, Manny Franco] and Duke of Love [post 7, Luis Contreras].

Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ Kentucky homebred Tyson brings a highly consistent 5-4-0-1 record into his dirt debut, entering from a three-length score in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup going 1 1/16 miles on July 29 over Tapeta at Woodbine.

The 4-year-old Tapit gray previously captured the Grade 2 Dominion Day at the Toronto oval, defeating stablemate Treason by 1 1/2 lengths while earning a career-high 101 Beyer.

Tyson is out of the Smart Strike mare Honouring – a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Streaming as well as Teeming, whose fifth offspring Arcangelo captured this year’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets and Grade 1 Travers.

He hails from the prolific line of Reine de Course broodmares Better Than Honor and Best in Show.

MyRacehorse’s Duke of Love has campaigned mainly over Woodbine’s all-weather surface, but has captured both of his conventional dirt starts.

The 4-year-old bay son of Cupid won last year’s Prince of Wales on dirt at Fort Erie by a half-length over next out graded stakes winner Ironstone.

Following a trio of unplaced efforts at Woodbine, Duke of Love returned to the dirt to capture the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s Cup on August 6 at Mountaineer Park.

Completing the field are Grade 2 Suburban second and third-place finishers Clapton [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Unbridled Bomber [post 2, Dylan Davis], as well as three-time winning stakes-placed Warrior Johny [post 3, Junior Alvarado].