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Aaron previews Cyberknife, a contender for the 2022 Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. The Brad Cox trainee’s victories in the Haskell Stakes (G1) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) have his connections feeling confident as he returns right back to the big stage. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
“It’s like a movie, isn’t it,” marveled Al Gold. “It’s really very shocking how everything fell into place.”
Gold, who races under the nom de course Gold Square LLC, is living the life already filled with the stuff Hollywood couldn’t have scripted any better. His heartwarming story can take yet another good turn on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course when his dual Grade 1-winning colt Cyberknife tries for his third top level score in the 153rd renewal of the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers for 3-year-olds.
“I’ve had so many horses and you never know if one is going to step up and separate from all the others and this one just did it. It’s such a shock,” said Gold, a 66-year-old New Jersey native and Saratoga Springs resident who has been a horseplayer for 50 years and has owned thoroughbreds since 2004, but never had a Grade 1 winner before.
Gold purchased the son of sensational first crop sire and 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and the maternal grandson of 2005 Travers winner Flower Alley for $400,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearlings Showcase. Then he went in for a routine medical checkup only to receive the dreaded diagnosis that he had prostate cancer.
On December 7, 2020 – the day of his 65th birthday – he underwent the first in his series of treatments performed with Accuracy Inc.’s robotic radiation therapy device branded as the cyberknife. Despite its ominous name, the cyberknife is a non-invasive procedure that delivers radiation to the cancer cells without damaging other healthy tissue or cells.
Gold had usually given his horses comical names or named them after TV show characters, but he gave this serious horse a serious name to get the word out to others that prostate cancer is treatable and no longer a death sentence. Fortunately, he is now in remission and thoroughly enjoying the ride with the best horse he’s ever owned.
“Cyberknife is the best. He’s the horse of a lifetime, at least so far,” said Gold, who got his start betting horses when he was 16 years old and on a family vacation at a resort in the nearby Catskill Mountains. As he tells it, one day some of the men were talking horses and they touted the kid on a standardbred on that night’s card at Monticello Raceway. He went to the track, bet on the trotter, cashed his ticket for a big price, and never looked back.
Gold currently owns about 25 horses with several different trainers, but he selected reigning two-time Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox for Cyberknife. It’s been a perfect match.
Cyberknife has a record of 5-2-0 in nine starts with earnings of $1,596,250, and among his four wins in six 2022 starts are Grade 1 victories in the Arkansas Derby and the TVG.com Haskell Stakes in track record time. The chestnut colt is the only 3-year-old male with two top level scores this year and is only one of a handful of horses of any age or gender with more than a single Grade 1 win in 2022.
“Fifty years in the game and here I am. I say the cicadas come every 17 years and make that noise. When I started in the game I had a really good horse my first year, and it took 17 years to have another good one. I’m like the cicadas,” said Gold, whose other graded stakes winners are Little Miss Holly [2011 Iowa Oaks-G3] and Chace City [2006 Saratoga Special Breeders’ Cup Stakes-G2]. He also co-owned 2014 Grade 3 Toboggan winner Candyman E.
Florent Geroux has been in the irons for seven of Cyberknife’s last nine outings and under his brilliant ride Cyberknife was the upset winner of the Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 23rd. That day is one Gold will never forget, and it isn’t only because the Haskell is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“This is a very big victory. The Arkansas Derby was very big, and the Haskell is also. This is a very big deal,” said Gold, who grew up on the Jersey Shore and frequented Monmouth Park for 35 years, right after the race. “I started betting horses when I was a kid and have owned horses for years. You always have fantasies. You want to win the Derby and all the big races, but this is one of the ones I really wanted to win. And we’re on our way to the Breeders’ Cup. We go to the Travers next and we’ll see where we are.”
There is more than an all-expenses paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup and the Travers purse at hand. There is the matter of the $1 million Betmakers Bonanza, offered by the partnership of Betmakers Technology Group and Monmouth Park, to any horse who can win the Haskell, the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
What’s more, a Travers win would strengthen Cyberknife’s argument for a divisional championship should he prevail at the 11/4-mile distance.
“This horse is really coming into his own. He was a nice 2-year-old and always had ability but now that he’s older he keeps getting better and better. He’s a very talented horse,” said Gold, who earlier this summer sold Cyberknife’s breeding rights to Spendthrift Farm to begin with the 2023 season. “He worked great here on Saturday when he breezed five furlongs in a minute flat and looked very sharp.”
Gold, who is retired from a career in commercial real estate, splits his time now between homes in South Florida and Saratoga Springs, where his house is recognizable as the one with the twin spires reminiscent of Churchill Downs.
“I put the twin spires on my house here when I built it. It was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I have a room in my house which is like a barn. I have a painting on the wall of a couple of horses I owned. One never made it to the races and the other one I lost my shirt on, but they photographed well and a fellow I know did the painting, so I have a little barn setting here. It’s a comfortable place to relax.”
Nonetheless, he isn’t chilling these days as excitement builds up to the Travers.
“You’d think I’d enjoy it more and sleep better, but I’m only sleeping two or three hours a night because I can’t relax. I’m too old for this,” quipped Gold, who goes to the track every morning to visit his horses and watch them go through their routines.
Gold is known for being kind, generous, giving and sharing his good fortune with family and friends. When Cyberknife ran in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 18th after trying to chase the wicked pace, his owner chartered a private jet, invited his large posse, and picked up the entire tab for the trip.
“We had the big thing for the Derby, which didn’t work out too well for the horse. Other than the two minutes we all had a great time there. It was very, very nice. But for this race it’s just going to be my wife, Hilary, my kids Bryan and Dayna and their families, and three of my good friends who are coming up. It will just be 10 or 12 people,” he said.
Gold has been a spectator at the Travers for the last 10 years or so. Now that he’s a participant he isn’t creatively visualizing himself standing in the coveted winner’s circle next to Cyberknife draped in the blanket of red carnations.
“No, nothing like that,” said Gold, who gets to watch Cyberknife carry his silks just twice more before the colt goes to Spendthrift. “I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself.”
But looking back over the recent months, he beat a cancer diagnosis, won his first Grade 1 in the Arkansas Derby, had his first Kentucky Derby starter, won his second Grade 1 in the Haskell at what was his home track while earning a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and now has the chance to win the prestigious Grade 1 Travers in his adopted home town and perhaps even an Eclipse Award with his horse of a lifetime.
“Isn’t it a wonderful thing? It’s amazing when you think about it all,” he said. “I hope we have another one like Cyberknife, but obviously I’m really enjoying this one. When this amazing year is over and the horse is retired, then I’m going to sit back and really appreciate it all more. It’s going to be even better afterward.”
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