The Rick Violette trained Diversify looks for a repeat in Saturday’s $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park and faces an eclectic group including three foes that have done most of their running overseas.
A field of eight will line up in the race, one of four graded stakes on an outstanding 11-race card which includes three Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win and You’re In” races. The Jockey Club Gold Cup winner stamps a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Diversify won last year’s edition of the Jockey Club Gold Cup but his connections elected to skip the Classic at Del Mar and instead landed in Louisville for the Clark Handicap (G1) where he set the early fractions and weakened to finish fourth.
The gelding has won three in a row, taking the field gate to wire to win the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga in his last outing.
He faces a trio of foes that have raced primarily overseas—Gronkowski, Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow.
Gronkowski has made two starts since going to the Chad Brown barn, a rallying second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) where he came up 1 ¾ lengths shy of getting to Justify, then regressed in an eighth-place finish in the Travers (G1).
Mendelssohn was beaten 73 ¼ lengths in the Kentucky Derby (G1) where he was sent off at just under 7-1, then was third in the Dwyer (G3) and second in the Travers.
Thunder Snow made his U.S. debut in the 2017 Kentucky Derby where he was rank coming out of the gate and was pulled up. Since then he has won two Group 1 races, taking the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly last summer and the Dubai World Cup this spring. He was eighth in the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1) in his most recent start.
Saturday’s card at Belmont Park also features the $200,000 Pilgrim (G3), $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and the $350,000 Vosburgh (G1).
Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Belmont Park Race 10 The Jockey Club Gold Cup G1 (Post time 5:50 ET)
#2 Gronkowski 4-1
#6 Diversify 4-5
#3 Mendelssohn 7-2
#8 Thunder Snow 6-1
Analysis: Gronkowski appears to have the best shot of beating the chalk in here. This guy really turned some heads with a strong late rally to finish second to Justify in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at 24-1, coming up 1 3/4 lengths shy of stopping a Triple Crown. It was his first start since landing in the Chad Brown barn. He then went to the Travers where he went backwards, checking in eighth and never getting into the mix. The colt returns to the Belmont Park surface and has worked well since his last outing and he is in the right barn with Brown. His running style really does not suit the way this race sets up. He needs a couple of these runners, namely Carlino and Mendelssohn to run with Diversify early to set things up for him. The colt was closer to the pace in several of his starts overseas including the Novice Stakes at Newcastle over the all-weather where he went gate to wire, so perhaps Ortiz can have him a bit closer here.
Diversify wired the field in the Whitney (G1) in the slop last out and matched up his career top Beyer of 110 that he earned two back in the Suburban (G2). In his last start he did it over a racing strip that was kind to outside stalkers and closers that day. The Violette trainee has two trips at today’s 1 1/4 miles and he won them both, this race last year and the Suburban two back. He returns to his favorite surface where he has won six of his eight trips with two seconds. If he does not get pace pressure early he will prove very tough to catch. However, he does face a solid group here and tough to settle on his 4-5 morning line.
Mendelssohn has bounced back from his 20th place finish in the Run for the Roses with a couple of decent efforts. He was third in the Dwyer (G3) two back going a mile here and last out set the early fractions and was no match for Catholic Boy last out in the Travers (G1), beaten four lengths while a length ahead of Bravazo. His 18 1/2 length tour de force in the UAE Derby (G2) back in March was aided by a racing strip that was kind to speed that evening. The O’Brien trainee figures to be in a good spot sitting just off the pace and likely gets a good trip here with Ryan Moore in to ride.
WIN: #2 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 2,6 / 2,3,6,8
TRI: 2,6 / 2,3,6,8 / 2,3,6,7,8