Baron Samedi winning the 2021 Belmont Gold Cup. (Photo: Chelsea Durand)
ELMONT, N.Y. – Stayers will have their chance to shine in Friday’s eighth running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup, a two-mile Widener turf marathon for older horses on Day Two of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
The Belmont Gold Cup has been won the past four years by representatives from as many European nations, including Ireland’s Baron Samedi, France’s Amade, England’s Call To Mind and Germany’s Red Cardinal.
Two of those countries put forth serious challengers once again in German Group 2 winner Loft and multiple listed-winning UK-based runner Outbox, who will test the stamina of a sextet of North American runners.
German invader Loft represents the same trainer-jockey team of Marcel Weiss and Rene Piechulek, who rocked the racing world in last year’s Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with 72-1 winner Torquator Tasso. Loft is expected to be a far shorter price at Belmont Park, which is not the only difference between the two stable stars of the Weiss yard.
“Torquator Tasso is quite a lazy horse and some of the handicap horses he trains with really can’t get him fit enough, so he needs a few races, but Loft is different—he is very easy to train and doesn’t need a lot of work,” said Julia Romich, assistant trainer to Weiss. “He’s in great condition now and doesn’t require any special distance or ground. He has been perfect so far leading to this race. You never know until you try to ship a horse like this, but we know that we have good German horses running right now and he’s coming into this off a Group 2 win against them. The owner has also had success shipping to over there, as well.”
Owned by Gestut Ittlingen, whose Lauro won the 2008 Grade 2 Sky Classic at Woodbine, the lightly raced son of Alderflug [also the sire of Torquator Tasso and recent Group 1 winner Alenquer] is a grandson of In The Wings, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf over the Widener in 1990.
Loft won last month’s Group 2 Oleander-Rennen over two miles on a right-handed, good-to-firm course at Hoppegarten. The run was just his seventh outing and fifth for Weiss, having been previously in the care of Andreas Wohler, trainer of the aforementioned Red Cardinal. Loft, assigned 122 pounds, exits the inside post under Piechulek.
“I think the two miles is perfect for him and he will run well with the American race style,” Piechulek said. “Soft ground is even better for him, but it doesn’t really matter that much with him if it is firm ground. I think he can place and maybe win. He likes races with a good pace, but he can place himself up close or behind, and I think he is even better this year and has been improving every race.
“Last year was a great year with the Arc win and this is the same trainer, though a different horse, obviously,” Piechulek continued. “It’s another story and experience to enjoy. I’ve never ridden in America and have tried years ago to and it didn’t work out. On days like this and a race like this; to be there with a good horse who has a good chance, I’m very excited for that.”
Hambleton Racing XXXIII’s Outbox brings substantial class lines, but enters off a subpar effort for trainer Archie Watson in the Group 3 Aston Park at Newbury over 12 furlongs, finishing last of six.
In February, the son of Frankel won the listed $1 million HH The Amir Trophy in Qatar and last summer he defeated Group/Grade 1 winners Logician and Desert Encounter in the listed Fred Archer – both also over 12 furlongs. Two races back, he finished third in the Group 2 Jockey Club, just three-quarters of a length astern Yibir. The seven-time winner from 27 starts steps up to the two miles for the first time since finishing fourth in a Kempton handicap in January 2021. He will be ridden by regular pilot Hollie Doyle from post 4, carrying a field-high 124 pounds.
“Outbox is a very adaptable horse and we know he handles the traveling. I’m hopeful he will run a big race in the Gold Cup,” Doyle said. “His previous run was disappointing, but every horse is entitled to throw in a bad one. His win in Qatar was excellent and if he can produce another run like that, it would be great. I have ridden in America before, but never at Belmont, so I am thoroughly looking forward to getting to know the track and being involved in such a prestigious race meeting.”
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher won the inaugural Belmont Gold Cup in 2014 with Charming Kitten and this year has a leading fancy in Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Alex Daigneault’s Abaan, who won the H. Allen Jerkens over two miles and Grade 3 W. L. McKnight over 12 furlongs this winter at Gulfstream Park. The son of Will Take Charge will drop in grade from the Grade 1 Man o’ War four weeks ago, where he finished fifth. Luis Saez has the ride from post 2 touting 122 pounds.
“He’s already won at two miles,” Pletcher said. “He’s doing well and we’re looking forward to getting him back at a distance he’s proven at.”
Colonel Stable and Jonathan Wilmot’s Cibolian [post 6, Flavien Prat, 118 pounds] enters off a troubled fourth-place finish in last month’s Grade 3 Louisville over 12 furlongs for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Last summer, he was third in the listed Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park over the same trip and will be stepping up in both distance and class.
“I took a shot last time,” Brisset said. “I entered him late and he was 20-1. We had a good draw so we hugged the rail the whole way around and when it was time to go, he couldn’t really find his way out. He could have won based on what the jockey said. He had a lot of trouble. If you look at the gallop out, it looks like he went by everyone and kept on going. You never know, but he has run two mile and a half races this year.”
Canadian classic winner British Royalty [post 3, Joel Rosario, 118 pounds], who races for Bruce Lunsford and trainer Barbara Minshall, will be looking to add the Belmont Gold Cup to his Breeders’ triumph last fall.
Daniel Alonso’s Novo Sol [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.,118 pounds] was Group 1-placed in Brazil before coming to America and finishing third in the Grade 2 Pan American in April at Gulfstream.
Allowance winners Strong Tide [post 5, Dylan Davis, 120 pounds] and Box N Score [post 8, Manny Franco, 118 pounds] complete the lineup.
The Belmont Gold Cup is slated as Race 8 on Friday’s 10-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
By Michael Adolphson/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Chelsea Durand