A field of seven horse are looking to secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the 99th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/4 miles. The race serves as the final “Win And You’re In” race of the year for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The leading contender for this year’s race, Keen Ice, is no stranger to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He finished a distant fourth to American Pharoah in 2015 and, after transferring to the Todd Pletcher barn in mid-2016, was third behind Eclipse Award winners Arrogate and California Chrome in last year’s Classic. He’s a horse that excels at this distance.
“We’re looking forward to getting him back at a mile and 1/4,” said Pletcher, who has finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on five occasions and is still looking for his first win in the race. “He’s been training well and we hope he can give us the same kind of effort he did in the Suburban.”
A strong pair of sophomores will face older rivals for the first time on Saturday: Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan and the up-and-coming Pavel. Good Samaritan made the switch from turf to dirt a successful one at Saratoga, taking the Jim Dandy by 4 3/4 lengths on July 29 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. After a fifth-place effort in the Grade 1 Travers, he’ll be adding blinkers for this race.
“He came out of the Travers in good order and he’s been training well,” said Mott. “He’s had plenty of time, and I guess sooner or later, he’s got to meet his elders, so Saturday is the day. Hopefully, the blinkers will place him a little closer in the race. I don’t think it’s going to make a huge difference, but maybe it’ll put him a couple lengths closer, which would be great.”
The Jockey Club Gold Cup will go off as race 10 on an 11-race card at Belmont Park featuring several stakes races.
#7 Keen Ice – There’s no denying that this horse is running better than ever, and the last time that he started at Belmont Park, he won the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. He’s a distance specialist who excels at a mile and 1/4. Last time out at a mile and 1/8, he was second to Gun Runner, so there’s no shame in that, either. Since moving over to Todd Pletcher, he’s really improved his consistency. He may not win, but he is a horse that you can rely on and key in your exactas, trifectas, and superfectas.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#4 Pavel – He was brilliant on debut, winning a maiden special weight, then struggled in the Jim Dandy before rebounding to win the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx last time out. The talent is certainly there and his maturity seems to be developing. Is it developed enough to take on the big boys in this field? That’s a tough question to answer. He came unraveled before the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, so he has to avoid that here if he wants to have a shot at winning.
#1 Diversify – Last time out, he had one of the best performances of the entire Saratoga meet, dominating New York-bred rivals by nearly 12 lengths. The pace seems to set up well for him again here in this spot. He’s had plenty of rest since that romp, so he could be ready to run another big one. The competition is much stiffer here, though, so that will be the test. I could see him winning, or I could see him fading and finishing off the board. Play him defensively.
#3 Good Samaritan – He started on the dirt for the first time in the Jim Dandy and pulled an upset over the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners. He ran well next time out in the Travers but finished fifth after falling too far back early on. He gets blinkers here with the idea of getting him involved a bit earlier in the race, which is probably a smart thing. He might just be a horse that needs a pace meltdown, as that is kind of what he turned into when running on the turf, too. He’s a very good underneath candidate, but it’s questionable if he can actually win.
#5 Rally Cry – He’s a solid horse that finished second in the Grade 1 Woodward, but was defeated by over 10 lengths by Gun Runner. There’s no shame in that, though, as Gun Runner is one of the best horses in the country. He showed a lot of talent winning the $100,000 Alydar at Saratoga. A mile and 1/4 might be something he enjoys, too. The only problem is that he may not be the price he needs to be to actually bet him. Anything less than 8-1 is not worth a wager.
#6 Destin – He got back to the winner’s circle with an allowance win at Saratoga in his last race. That was a good prep for this one, but he was all-out to win that race. It’s hard to figure that he will be up to the task this time, as this is an ultra tough spot.
#2 Highland Sky – He tries dirt for the first time here after having just a so-so year on the turf. He’ll easily be the longest shot on the board and one to easily toss.