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Bright Future won the 2023 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga, a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, after holding off a late bid from Proxy.
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Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Bright Future was triumphant in his Grade 1 debut, stalking the pace and fending off a rally from Proxy to capture the 105th running of Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup going 10 furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.
In winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup – a “Win And You’re In” event for 3-year-olds and upward – Bright Future earned an automatic entry into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita Park.
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Bright Future provided Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with his second Jockey Club Gold Cup conquest after saddling 2020 winner Happy Saver. He entered the prestigious race from a dominant score in a second-level allowance optional claimer on July 21 going nine furlongs at Saratoga, where he earned a career-high 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
Bright Future broke from the outermost post 8 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano and tracked second one length off the early foot of three-time winner Warrior Johny, who set early fractions of 22.25 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.86 for the half-mile over the fast main track.
Around the far turn, Bright Future advanced to only a half-length off Warrior Johny who clocked three-quarters in 1:14.10 with Tyson to their outside in third. Meanwhile Proxy, who was full of run and along the rail throughout, was awaiting racing room under Joel Rosario. As Warrior Johny began to give way nearing the quarter-pole, Bright Future assumed command but Proxy tipped outside into the three path with dead aim on the new leader. Bright Future’s margin decreased with each stride to the finish line as Proxy continued to advance. The pair hit the wire in tandem, resulting in a photo finish that would go to Bright Future, who won by a nose in a final time of 2:03.00.
It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Tyson, who nosed out Clapton for third. Duke of Love, post time favorite Rattle N Roll, Warrior Johny and Unbridled Bomber completed the order of finish.
Bright Future provided his Hall of Fame and two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winning sire Curlin [2007-08] with his first winner in this race. He earned his fourth lifetime victory while catapulting his lifetime earnings to $716,940 after banking $550,000 from the win. His record now stands at 7-4-0-2. His lone off-the-board effort took place two starts back when a distant eighth in the Grade 2 Brooklyn on June 10 going 12 furlongs at Belmont Park.
“We probably got a little ambitious when we tried the Brooklyn, maybe didn’t have quite the foundation to be ready to go a mile and a half at that stage,” Pletcher said. “We regrouped with the allowance race here and I thought it was a powerful performance, so from that time on we’ve been pointing for this and the horse has trained exceptionally well. Coming into it, we were optimistic he was ready to make a move forward.”
Castellano, who was aboard Bright Future for his last out victory, said he really liked the way Bright Future performed.
“I had a lot of confidence after the way I rode the horse last time,” said Castellano, who piloted 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Bernardini. “He gave me the impression he was going to step up the ladder a little bit, the level. I had a lot of confidence because this is a good horse and I thought he can do it. I’m very happy that everything went through. I had a beautiful trip and a good post today. It worked out great.”
The victory only added to a whirlwind year for Castellano, who captured the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby in May aboard Mage as well as guiding Arcangelo to wins in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in June and the Grade 1 Travers last Saturday at the Spa.
“Thank God. I’ve been blessed, very lucky and very fortunate to ride the best horses, especially with Todd Pletcher, one of the best trainers in the country,” Castellano said. “He gave me the opportunity to ride this horse and that’s the key. Keep positive and working hard, and see everything come around.”
2023 Breeders’ Cup
Pletcher went on to speak volumes of Castellano.
“Javier has had a phenomenal year,” Pletcher said. “He’s making all the right decisions and it is great to see him back in top form after taking some time off for an injury. He’s riding as good as ever.”
Pletcher said he would likely train Bright Future up to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he will attempt to be the first horse to sweep the Jockey Club Gold Cup-Breeders’ Cup Classic double since his influential sire did so in 2007 en route to Horse of the Year honors.
“I would think so. I doubt we’d do anything in between,” Pletcher said. “It was a good spot to try a Grade 1 and he delivered a big performance. In order to go to the next one, he’s going to need to make another move forward. It appears to be pretty wide open, the older horse division. I guess we will learn a little more in California tomorrow or Monday. We’ll see.”
Bright Future, who returned $9.50 for a $2 win wager, was a $350,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Pletcher-trained 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.
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