The 2019 Jockey Club Gold Cup by Geo Sette

September 27, 2019

Belmont Park Race #10   The Jockey Club Gold Cup (Grade 1) for $750,000.00 Three-year old’s and up. One Mile and ¼ ( 10 Furlongs)  Likely post time: 5:49PM Est. 

Past the Wire’s Geo Sette delves into the small but talented field of the 2019 Jockey Club Gold Cup. As usual Geo looks at the competitors and grand history of this great race.

We’ve reached it, this fabulously challenging race is 100 years old. 

Inaugurated back in 1919, it is no doubt the main attraction at the Belmont autumn meet. Of course these days it is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series. 

 Simply said; 

 A “Win and You’re In” as the winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup automatically qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The history of this race is quite amazing. So many champions of the sport of kings have had dynamic runs to the wire, and because it’s open to all horses, any sex and any age, there have been numerous who have won this race more than once. The amazing Kelso won this race five times, in consecutive years (1960 thru 1964) a record that will probably never be touched.

Over the years, I have been in attendance numerous times for this race. My most memorable was back in 1995 when the great Cigar won his 11th straight Grade One race. Who can ever forget Tom Durkin’s enthusiastic call “Cigar Explodes” “Cigar opening up in mid-stretch”, I still get goosebumps every time I hear it. 

Hey, why don’t you feel that part of history right now, here’s the video for you, and then go ahead and take in my handicapping analysis of the race. :

It’s a small field of 5, but they are some of the better horses in training, each of them with a rather unique path in their racing year. 

Here’s how I see the race shaping up with my most precise order of finish.

# 3 Vino Rosso   

Yeah, I know some fellow handicappers and prognosticators will wonder why this son of Curlin is my top selection. Although incredibly talented, this guy has been perplexing to say the least. In some of his races he’s been an absolute beast, but then in others he just seems to not have his best kick.

I studied him harder this time and come to the conclusion that he may be sitting on his very best race.  There are many angles here. I believe that they scratched him out of the Grade One Woodward At Saratoga with vision for this race and that he would be more prepared.  Todd Pletcher has had an amazing career saddling horses on the New York Circuit, yet he has never won this race, so I feel this could very well be his time. There’s a major switch in rider as Johnny Velazquez is staying on # 2 Code of Honor, so now Pletcher gets to leg up Irad Ortiz who is as good as there ever will be riding at Belmont. Pletcher is also taking his blinkers off which I feel will make a positive difference for this colt.  His works show two consecutive razor sharp 5 panel breezes over the same strip which is an indication of great fitness. Oddly so, especially from this barn, this guy has only raced one other time on the Belmont surface, and that was in the Belmont Stakes last year as a three-year old where he was defeated by Triple Crown champ Justify. Clearly, both in my film study and in his published past performances, this colt is a seasoned Grade One talent who has been much improved as a four-year-old, showing greater tactical speed and a stronger, and yes ‘gamer’ presence during his stretch runs.  In this field based on his “Feast or Famine” ways, he will probably offer some generous value. He is one that I will not allow to beat me. If he runs back to his Gold Cup victory at Santa Anita, he can take it all. I expect him to break alertly, sit 3 lengths back early on, and even closer if Irad feels he should, then fire his best once they get through the first 7/8ths. He should get a smart ride in a field limited to 5 starters. 

# 4 Preservationist 

This guy is the definition of a late bloomer. He’s been running his very best as a six-year-old. Many believe ( myself included) that he was well preserved with only 4 lifetime starts prior to this year. Now in 2019, he’s raced 6 times, winning 4 and off the board only once. He ran his career best figure at this demanding 10 furlong distance and he’s been close to brilliant in all 3 of his Belmont starts, so you can take for granted his love for the surface. He comes off a marvelous performance in the Grade One Woodward. Like my top choice, he should present a challenge early and then position himself for a power stretch run. I originally had him placed 3rd, but decided on making him my 2nd choice based on his age and maturity. I still feel he hasn’t shown his very best race as of yet. Junior Alvarado is up again for James Jerkens. He is a major contender for sure, especially if he runs back to his last at the distance, the Grade 2 Suburban back on July 6th where he smashed the field by 4+ opening lengths. 

# 2 Code of Honor   

This chestnut colt arguably has been one of the best three-year-olds in training, if not the best.  His Travers Stakes victory was nothing less than spectacular racing 8 wide and drawing clear from both Mucho Gusto and Tacitus.  Obviously, he’s proven to relish in the distance and comes right back with his fabulous connections of Johnny Velazquez ( who’s won this race twice in 2015 and 2016) up for Claude (Shug) McGaughey who has also won this race going way back to 1993 with Miner’s Mark. This colt showed fabulous ability as a juvenile and he carried it over to his three-year-old campaign. After watching all of his races on film, I originally had him paced 2nd. I switched gears knowing he’s facing my top two who are both older horses and each of them could be sitting on their best race.  Does he have the ability to boss this field? Absolutely, but his works coming into the race seem to be slower than his caliber would offer, so perhaps the last two races (both huge efforts) have taken something out of him. It will for sure be interesting to see.  Expect him to be at his best late in the race. He should have enough to hit the board for your exotics. Don’t ignore for sure, but don’t expect any value at the windows either. 

# 1 Tacitus     

Oh boy, what are we going to do with this guy? I’m smiling right now as I write this because he’s bred to run forever, he always seems to be a perfect fit for the races he runs, he gets well supported at the windows and he seems confident and professional in the paddock. Then he finds some sort of trouble every time he runs, or at least it seems that way. To be fair, he’s a game horse who has shown the propensity to move forward following his troubles, and that’s a good thing. At first, I thought it was the big fields he was entered in, but then in the Jim Dandy, only a field of six, he stumbled badly at the start, creating his own calamity and eventually finishing 2nd to Tax.  Bill Mott is a trainer I have tremendous respect for, and he’s deserved much better results from this colt. Jose Ortiz is back up who always provides a hard fought professional ride. So why is he my 4th choice? Well, I simply like my top 3 more. He’s facing older horses in my top 2 selections, and he too can be a little spent after a long year because his works should be a little more impressive.  He will need a moderate to fast pace to really make his presence felt in the stretch. If he gets it, look out because his raw talent may surface and if he provides his best and stays away from the calamities, then he’s capable to make the exacta. He certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to most handicappers. 

# 5 Olympic Village   

Now C’Mon man, this is almost unfair, but I guess they needed to make this field at least five horses.  This gelding has shown some nice promise winning his last 3 races, but he’s stepping up to the moon and back in class and would have to shock the world to win this. He does get the great Javier Castellano in the saddle for the 2nd time who won this race back in 2006 on Bernardini, but this guy is completely up against it. He will no doubt be most handicappers choice to run last. Like I said, his 3 wins are nice, but simply are no match for these seasoned hard hitters.    

Let’s make it a day to remember, Enjoy the races. Let’s Go! 

 ~Georgio Sette 

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