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A field of eight will contest this year’s running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont Park. The race serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event for the Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs. Headlining the race is the defending champion, Diversify, who has come on strong as of late, winning three in a row. Two races back, he dominated his rivals in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes, and last time out, he again dusted his foes in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. He will break from post 6 under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.
“The Whitney was a last-minute decision, no question, but we went there because he was doing so well and everything was exceptional going into it,” said Violette. “Skipping the Woodward basically gave us another couple weeks to let him chill a little bit, refuel his tank. It gave us extra time to not really rest but feel out the horse and get us back to our best race.
“There’s a lot of marbles on the table. A big race is a big race and there’s some nice horses in there,” he added. “He’s had three very, very good races and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he can handle an off racetrack. He’s a very good racehorse, he’s fit, and the time since the Whitney should give us a fresh horse going into this.”
The winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
The Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup shares the Saturday card with three other stakes races, including two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events: The Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (Longines Turf) and the Grade 1 Vosburgh (TwinSpires Sprint). The North American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events return on Friday, October 5 at Keeneland, and continue through the weekend at Keeneland, Belmont, and Santa Anita.
The full field from the rail out includes: Carlino, Gronkowski, Mendelssohn, Patch, Uno Mas Modelo, Diversify, Discreet Lover, and Thunder Snow.
#6 Diversify –One of the best New York-breds of all time enters into this race off of powerful wins in the Suburban and the Whitney. He took the lead from the start in each one, set very fast fractions, and still completely dominated to win by multiple lengths. The scariest thing for his Jockey Club Gold Cup competition is that he loves Belmont Park. If he is allowed to go out on his own and set soft fractions, then they may not be able to catch him on the front end, but there is a serious presence of other speed in this race.
#2 Gronkowski – Two races back, he nearly disrupted a Triple Crown in his United States debut, finishing a solid second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. After that win, trainer Chad Brown targeted the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, and the horse was training well leading up to the race, but he ended up finishing eighth while never threatening at any point. His return to Belmont could help, but he has to show marked improvement if he wants to compete with this group.
#8 Thunder Snow – The bucking bronco is back in the United States for the first time since his 2017 Kentucky Derby disaster. Fans watched in amazement when two races back, the horse that refused to run in the Kentucky Derby went wire-to-wire in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at odds of 16-1. This is his major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
#3 Mendelssohn –Hype doesn’t even begin to describe the discussion surrounding this horse. His breeding speaks for itself, but he’s proven his worth on the track, too. Last year, he shipped to the United States to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and this year, he absolutely dominated his rivals in the Group 2 UAE Derby. Last time out, he was solid once again with a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, but two of his races this year have been disasters – he was last in the Kentucky Derby and a well-beaten third in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes. He’s a mixed bag but is dangerous on the front end.
#7 Discreet Lover – This horse usually outruns his odds, having finished third in back-to back races at odds of 41/1 and 38/1. As a bettor, that is all that you can ask for. It’s possible that he could do it again here, but he must rebound from his dud last time out in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. That was his first poor effort in a while, though, so a bounce back is possible.
#4 Patch –America’s favorite one-eyed horse gives it another try after finishing off the board in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakeslast time out. He didn’t make much of an impact there, but this race is a bit softer. He is pace-dependent and will drop back and make one run in the end, so if the pace is hot, then he could hit the board.
#1 Carlino – He enters off of a victory against allowance company last time out at Saratoga, which was a class drop after running off the board in three straight stakes races. He struggled against that company, but he runs very well against allowance foes. His latest victory earned him the chance to give top-level competition another shot.
#5 Uno Mas Modelo –Owner Loooch Racing is not afraid to a take shot in big races, but this horse has earned his right to run here, having won three in a row leading up to this appearance. His hot streak began at Churchill Downs in a starter allowance race, then continued at Saratoga with two sharp-looking allowance scores. This move up in class will be tough, and he will also be stretching out in distance, but he’s earned his right to be here.
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