With just 34 days before the Breeders’ Cup, the stakes action heats up with nine Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races including the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on tap on Saturday.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup drew a solid field of 12 including the top three finishers of the Travers Stakes (G1). With the older division lacking, missing recently retired Will Take Charge, Game On Dude and Palace Malice (who is done this year but may still race in 2015), the three-year-olds look as if they could dominate the race along with the $300,000 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita.
The winner of each race earns an all-expenses paid trip to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
While the Jockey Club Gold Cup looks wide open, the Awesome Again looks as if it could come up chalky. The undefeated Shared Belief is the 3-5 morning line favorite and has already beaten older runners and earned a berth in the Breeders;’ Cup Classic with his win in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in his last start.
Wicked Strong, who was beaten a nose by his stablemate V.E. Day in the Travers is the 3-1 morning line favorite for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The race also features Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist, who was third in the Travers, Whitney (G1) winner Moreno and Suburban (G2) victor Zivo.
The Super Saturday card at Belmont Park is tremendous, featuring five graded stakes. Here is a quick look at the supporting features:
Kelso Handicap: Itsmyluckyday is the 4-5 morning line favorite and is using the race as a prep for the Classic. The colt ran down Moreno last out to win the Woodward (G1). His main foe may be Ack Ack (G3) winner Bradester (3-1). The race geos off as the fourth, with the Beldame the fifth, both in the early Pick 5 and both races have the potential to end with chalk.
Beldame: Stopchargingmaria skipped the Cotillion (G1) last week and avoided a showdown with Untapable and looks tough here as the 5-2 morning line favorite. The actual price seems likely to be lower. She won back-to-back Grade 1 races in her last two starts, the CCA Oaks and Alabama. The Bob Baffert trained Fiftyshadesofhay (9-2) won the Ruffian (G2) over the Belmont Park main track and could be the upsetter.
Flower Bowl: Stephanie Kitten figures to be coming from the clouds as usual and is the 5-2 morning line favorite. Abaco (7-2) is coming off a win in the Ballston Spa (G2) and Alterite (8-1) is looking to rebound off a pair of subpar efforts to start her year. She won the Garden City (G1) last September over the Belmont Park turf in her U.S. debut.
Vosburgh: Palace is the early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and could be tough in this spot as the 2-1 morning line favorite. He beat Happy My Way (3-1) by a length in the seven-furlong Forego (G1). Private Zone (7-2) is the defending champion of the Vosburgh and is making his second start off the bench.
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic: Main Sequence is perfect in two starts since landing in the U.S. and going to the Graham Motion barn. The gelding won the United Nations (G1) and Sword Dancer (G1) in his two starts, both in photos. The Chad Brown entry of Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution are 5-2 and are both Grade 1 winners, while Imagining (3-1) won the Man O’ War (G1) over the Belmont Park turf in May and was beaten just a head by Main Sequence last out in the Sword Dancer.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes all of the graded stakes action from Belmont Park and Santa Anita.
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)
4 Zivo 6-1
8 Tonalist 4-1
3 Wicked Strong 3-1
10 V.E. Day 5-1
Analysis: Zivo is going to get overlooked in the spot and we should catch a decent price on this Chad Brown trainee. The five-year-old state bred won six races in a row including the Suburban (G2) before coming up short last out behind a couple of these last out in the Woodward (G1).
He raced near the back of the pack along the inside, came with a four wide run and made up some ground late, beaten three lengths for the top spot. He caught a racing strip that was kind to speed that day. He has won four of his six trips over the Belmont Park main track and should get a good pace set up here.
Tonalist was up closer to the pace than he probably should have been last out in the Travers (G1) while four wide around the first turn, made a bid at the 5/16’s in between foes and then could not sustain his bid late, beaten 2 1/2 lengths for the top spot. The blinkers come off here and jockey Joel Rosario should be able to work out a better trip sitting a bit farther back.
The colt is perfect in two starts over the main track here, winning the Peter Pan (G2) and Belmont Stakes (G1). He looks capable of better than he showed last out.
Wicked Strong tracked the early pace from the outside going five wide around the first turn, made a good three wide move into the stretch and took over the lead but was run down by his stablemate V.E. Day in the final strides, beaten a nose. Two back he put in one of his best performances this year winning the Jim Dandy (G2), beating Tonalist by 2 1/4 lengths.
He was making up ground late in the Belmont (G1) and had a less than stellar trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The colt owns a solid pace profile throughout and really does not have any knocks except for his price.
WIN: #4 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 4,8 / 3,4,8,10
TRI: 4,8 / 3,4,8,10 / 3,4,8,10,11