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San Pablo winning the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) (Courtesy of EQUI-SPORT/Ryan Denver).

The 94th running of the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) offers the winner an automatic entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in five weeks and has brought together a very deep and talented field of 10. With four of the 10 already millionaires, it may be difficult to say who leads the field in any substantial way. Certainly, based on recent top efforts in similar Grade 1 stakes, last month’s Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1) winner Fort Larned, runner-up Ron the Greek and third-place finisher Flat Out may fit the bill, the latter of the three also having won last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup. Another horse that has run well at the top level is Hymn Book, who won the Donn Handicap (G1) in January but is winless in four races since then. Ruler On Ice earned the biggest win of his career at Belmont in June 2011 when posting the upset in the Belmont Stakes (G1). He has not won a race since then but woke up to finish second last month after a number of poor efforts, so he could be returning to top form. Similarly, 2011 Travers Stakes (G1) winner Stay Thirsty hasn’t won in five races over 12 months since his stirring win. One horse who might be ready for this level is San Pablo, winner of two straight stakes including the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) last month. Fast Falcon missed by a neck in last month’s Travers Stakes but that may not mean much as the dead-heat winners, Alpha and Golden Ticket, did not run well in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) last weekend. Atigun and Game Ball round out the field.

San Pablo has run the two best races in his career recently, first winning the non-graded Birdstone Stakes then the Grade 3 Iselin Stakes, earning 119 Equibase Speed Figures in both races while winning each by open lengths in easy fashion. Having put together three straight wins last year as a 3-year-old, San Pablo still has improving to do, and if he puts in another top effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup will enter the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a shot at posting the upset. In the meantime, with Javier Castellano getting on for the first time, this colt trained by North American leading trainer (by earnings) Todd Pletcher has every right to win this race.

Fort Larned also enters the Jockey Club Gold Cup off a career-best effort, with a stellar 123 speed figure earned winning the Whitney last month. In the Whitney, Fort Larned stalked the pacesetter in third place in the early stages then took over powerfully to draw off by four lengths before holding off the late charge of Ron the Greek by 1 1/4 lengths. Having won the Skip Away Stakes (G3) in March at a distance (1 3/16 miles) just 110 yards shorter than this 1 1/4-mile trip, Fort Larned proved he is capable of running this far and, since in his most recent effort he proved he is capable of beating some of the best, there is little question he can win the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

FORT LARNED (Inside) HELD ON TO WIN THE WHITNEY

FortLarned1

Ron the Greek is no slouch, so it is difficult to rank him as the third win contender in this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, particularly as he has finished first or second in eight straight races, all stakes. Within that group of top efforts, Ron the Greek won a pair of Grade 1 stakes—the Santa Anita Handicap and the Stephen Foster Handicap—so he has proven he can rise to the occasion and win a race of this caliber. If Ron the Greek has one knock, it is that he comes from far back, which means he is subject to traffic problems and needs a fast pace to help set up his late kick. Nevertheless, with a career-best 121 figure earned last time out to repeat or improve upon, Ron the Greek certainly is a contender to win this race.

Ruler On Ice is a longshot to consider, having earned the biggest victory of his career last year on this track when winning the Belmont Stakes at odds of 24-1. Until last month, Ruler On Ice had underperformed since that big win, with a two poor efforts to start his 2012 campaign. However, that all changed when he finished second on August 25 in a highly rated non-stakes race that earned him a 119 figure. Since that 119 figure is comparable to the best recent efforts of the other three contenders, and since Ruler On Ice has proven capable of winning at this level, he should not be discounted as a contender in this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup. 

The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure: Atigun (104), Fast Falcon (104), Flat Out (121), Game Ball (107), Hymn Book (117) and Stay Thirsty (119).

My Selections:

San Pablo

Fort Larned

Ron the Greek

Ruler On Ice

$1,000,000 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (G1)

September 29, Race 10, Belmont Park, Post Time 5:46 PM E.T.

1 ¼ miles, 3-year-olds and older

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

1

Ron the Greek (FL)

J Lezcano

126

W I Mott

2

Stay Thirsty (KY)

R A Dominguez

126

T A Pletcher

3

Ruler On Ice (KY)

A Garcia

126

K J Breen

4

Hymn Book (KY)

J R Velazquez

126

C R McGaughey III

5

Fort Larned (KY)

B J Hernandez, Jr.

126

I R Wilkes

6

Atigun (KY)

M E Smith

122

K G McPeek

7

Fast Falcon (KY)

C S Nakatani

122

N P Zito

8

San Pablo (KY)

J Castellano

126

T A Pletcher

9

Flat Out (FL)

J Rosario

126

W I Mott

10

Game Ball (KY)

J L Espinoza

126

N Chatterpaul

  

 

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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