Siskany Looks To Defend His Title in G2 Belmont Gold Cup

June 3, 2024

Siskany wins last year’s edition of the Belmont Gold Cup (NYRA/Coglianese)

By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Godolphin’s British homebred Siskany returns to New York, albeit at a different racetrack, to defend his title in Thursday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup, a two-mile Mellon turf test for older horses, at Saratoga Race Course on Opening Day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which spans Thursday through Sunday, is highlighted by the 156th edition of the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, June 8. The four-day Festival will include 24 stakes races with purses totaling $10.25 million, the highest purse levels and number of stakes offered since the launch of the multi-day Festival in 2014.

The Belmont Gold Cup, slated as Race 10, offers a ‘Golden Ticket’ for an automatic berth into the Group 1, AUD$8.4 million Lexus Melbourne Cup on November 5 at Flemington Racecourse in Victoria, Australia. Flemington Racecourse announcer Matt Hill has traveled to Saratoga to call the Belmont Gold Cup and the 18-carat 2024 Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy will be onsite and available for photo opportunities with fans throughout Thursday’s live racing program.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Siskany [post 12, William Buick, 122 pounds] was a dominant winner of this event last year at Belmont Park, stalking from fifth position under returning rider William Buick before taking command at the stretch call and drawing clear to a two-length win.

The 6-year-old Dubawi gelding wintered in Dubai where he captured a pair of 1 3/4-mile events with Buick aboard over good going at Meydan Racecourse, taking the Al Khail Trophy in January ahead of a successful title defense in the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy in February. He was last seen finishing fourth in the two-mile Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup over good ground on March 30 at Meydan, landing 3 1/2-lengths back of the victorious Tower of London.

Last year, Siskany finished second in the Dubai Gold Cup and fifth in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup that May at York before his Belmont Gold Cup coup. This year, he arrives as a fresh horse and will race from a more than two-month layoff and with cheek-pieces off.

“Siskany was last seen in Dubai in the Gold Cup running his usual solid race,” said Appleby, who won the 2018 Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter. “He’s a past winner of the Belmont Gold Cup last year, so he’s coming back for a renewal of that. He’s in good form and hopefully he can get it done again.”

Appleby won a pair of graded stakes at Belmont at the Big A in May, taking the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge with Legend of Time and the Grade 2 Man o’ War with Silver Knott. On Thursday, he will look to saddle his 12th graded winner in New York following past success with Althiqa [2021 G1 Diana, 2021 G1 Just a Game], Nations Pride [2022 G1 Saratoga Derby Invitational, 2022 G3 Jockey Club Derby], With The Moonlight [2022 G3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational], Ottoman Fleet [2023 G2 Fort Marcy], Siskany [2023 G2 Belmont Gold Cup] and Eternal Hope [2023 G3 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational, 2023 G2 Sands Point].

Siskany is out of the Dansili mare Halay, who is a half-sister to multiple Group-stakes winner Dartmouth. His third dam, the Mountain Cat mare Altana, is a half-sister to Arcangues, who won the 1993 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at odds of 133-1.

The Grey Wizard chased home Siskany in this event last year when rallying strongly from seventh position for second under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, who is back aboard Thursday from post 11 and assigned 118 pounds.

Trainer by Graham Motion for Aron Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Albert Frassetto, The Grey Wizard’s last win came in a 12-furlong turf event last April at Keeneland ahead of his Belmont Gold Cup effort.

The 5-year-old Caravaggio grey made his seasonal debut with an off-the-board effort in the 12-furlong Grade 2 Elkhorn in April at Keeneland while racing from a nearly nine-month layoff. The Grey Wizard followed with a more promising effort last out when a closing third under James Graham in the 12-furlong Grade 3 Louisville on May 18 at Churchill Downs.

Motion said he’s looking forward to The Grey Wizard again having the opportunity to stretch his legs at a marathon distance.

“He ran super in this race last year,” Motion said. “It’s what we thought he always wanted to do, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but it’s always rewarding when they run the way you thought they might. The further the better for him.”

Motion noted his horse will need to step up to get the better of his familiar foe Siskany.

“He has to keep improving,” Motion said. “His first race back this year was disappointing, and I was scratching my head. I said to Aron, ‘he needs to race to get back into racing shape.’ So, I was really pleased the way he ran the other night when James rode him at Churchill. I think he needed racing to get to this race and off of that effort, I was encouraged to run him back.”

Motion said the addition of a ‘Golden Ticket’ to the Melbourne Cup is an intriguing one, having previously considered sending his multiple Grade 1-winning multi-millionaire Better Talk Now to the famous race.

“It’s something I would love to think about. I thought about it once before with Better Talk Now,” Motion said. “I’m all about trying these things and it would be an exciting thing to think about.”

Trainer Mike Maker, whose horses excel in long-distance events, will be represented by a trio of contenders in graded stakes-winner Starting Over [post 5, Manny Franco, 122 pounds], multiple graded stakes-placed Lucky Curlin [post 7, Ramon Vazquez, 118 pounds], and graded stakes-placed Really Good [post 3, Dylan Davis, 118 pounds].

Starting Over takes the Mac Diarmida (G2) March 2 at Gulfstream Park (Coglianese)
Starting Over takes the Mac Diarmida (G2) March 2 at Gulfstream Park (Coglianese)

Nice Guys Stables’ Starting Over arrives from a narrow neck victory over multiple graded stakes-winner Tawny Port in the 11-furlong Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on March 2 at Gulfstream Park.

The 7-year-old Liam’s Map grey, who won the 12-furlong Colonial Cup in September at Colonial Downs, has banked $531,145 through a 24-5-4-4 record.

Michael Hui’s Lucky Curlin, a veteran of 39 starts for a record of 7-3-6 and purse earnings of $352,108, was haltered for $50,000 three starts back in February at Gulfstream Park. The 7-year-old Curlin gelding has tested Grade 2 company traveling 12 furlongs in each of his two outings for new connections, landing fifth in the Pan American in March at Gulfstream and sixth in the Elkhorn on April 20 at Keeneland.

Really Good enters from an optional-claiming win traveling 1 3/16-miles on May 2 at Belmont at the Big A where he got up in the final jumps to win by a neck and garner a career-best 91 Beyer.

Owned by Paradise Farms, David Staudacher and Jason Ash, the 4-year-old Hard Spun colt has banked $378,546 through a 14-3-2-4 ledger.

A robust field includes multiple graded stakes-placed Pioneering Spirit [post 10, Jose Lezcano, 118 pounds] for trainer Linda Rice; multiple graded stakes-placed Limited Liability [post 1, Eric Cancel, 118 pounds] for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey; graded stakes-placed So High [post 2, Romero Maragh, 118 pounds] for trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul; stakes-placed Cibolian [post 4, Junior Alvarado, 118 pounds] for conditioner Archibald Kingsley, Jr.; stakes-placed Six Minus [post 9, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 118 pounds] for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher; as well as two-time winners Sports Editor [post 8, Kendrick Carmouche, 118 pounds] for trainer Ned Allard and the Christophe Clement-trained Champagne Juan [post 6, Joel Rosario, 118 pounds]. Costa Terra and Dai Vernon are entered for the main-track only.

Thursday’s lucrative card also features the Listed $150,000 Jersey Girl for sophomore fillies sprinting six furlongs in Race 4; the Listed $150,000 Tremont for juveniles sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs in Race 2 and the $150,000 Astoria at 5 1/2-furlongs for juvenile fillies in Race 9. First post on Thursday’s 10-race card is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

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