Veteran conditioner H. James Bond said he has always wanted to win the Grade 1, $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup and is hoping that he can score in Saturday’s historic classic-distance event at Belmont Park with William L. Clifton, Jr.’s Prioritize.
The 5-year-old son of multiple Grade 1-winner Tizway, who also was conditioned by Bond for Clifton, was a recent third in the Grade 1 Woodward on September 5 at Saratoga where he floated four wide into the first turn, laid about seven lengths off the pace in fourth and made a late bid to secure the show spot, three lengths behind gate-to-wire winner Global Campaign.
“He’s doing well physically,” Bond said. “He’s a nice horse, which he showed us last time. He seems to be getting better and hopefully he improves even more. The good thing is that we know he can get the mile and a quarter distance.”
Prioritize will be piloted in the Jockey Club Gold Cup by jockey Luis Saez. In a race with a compact field, Bond said he is counting on Saez to use his best judgement out of the gate.
“Luis is a master and we’ve been doing this together a few years now,” Bond said. “I’ll let him figure it out when he leaves the starting gate. We could end up close to the lead, he could be further back. A small field like this is a rider’s race a lot of the time, so he’s got to get him in the right position.”
Bond has come close to Jockey Club Gold Cup victories in the past with multiple Grade 1-winner Behrens, who finished second beaten 3 ¼ lengths in the 1999 renewal to River Keen, and Tizway, who was third in 2009 to Summer Bird.
“It’s a race that’s been on my hit list for a while,” Bond said. “It takes a nice horse to win a race like this and Prioritize is a nice horse. Hopefully he’s good enough on Saturday.”
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event, offering an automatic entry into the starting gate for the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7 at Keeneland.
“We would probably have to win,” Bond said regarding a potential Breeders’ Cup Classic attempt for Prioritize. “You just never know in this game. You never count your eggs, and always count your blessings. Good horses can be few and far between. We’ll just get past Saturday first and Mr. Clifton and myself will make a decision from there.”
Prior to the Woodward, Prioritize was victorious against allowance company going 1 1/8 miles over the Saratoga main track. He finished third in the Better Talk Now and the Grade 2 Hill Prince on turf during his 3-year-old season, but did not race on dirt until December 2019, where he pulled a 13-1 upset for a $35,000 tag at Aqueduct. He followed up with two runner-up efforts against allowance company over dirt prior to his allowance score.
Prioritize was selected by Bond out of the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was bought for $45,000 from the Legacy Bloodstock consignment. He boasts a record of 14-4-2-3 with $307,100 in lifetime earnings.
Following the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Bond will send out Giacosa for her open company stakes debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point going one mile over the Widener turf for sophomore fillies.
Also by Tizway, Giacosa won at third asking over the Widener turf going 1 1/16 miles on June 28 defeating next out winner Crescent Lady and defeated New York-bred winners going one mile on August 7 over the inner turf under Tyler Gaffalione at Saratoga.
“Tyler got off her that day and said, ‘She’s a really, really good filly’,” Bond recalled. “We’re really excited to run her. She’s sitting on a key race and this is a race I’ve been looking at since she won at Saratoga. I’ve got a lot of optimism in this situation. She’s a filly that I really like a lot.”
Bred in the Empire State by Bond’s Song Hill Farm and Roderick Towle, Giacosa is out of the two-time winning Smart Strike mare Smart Engagement, making her a full-sister to stakes-placed Tizzelle, who was runner-up to Grade 1-winner Fourstar Crook in the 2017 John Hettinger at Belmont Park.
“The pedigree is definitely there,” Bond said.
Giacosa also will be ridden by Saez, breaking from post 4 at morning line odds of 15-1.