Ron the Greek won the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
The 6-year-old horse hadn’t won a graded stakes race since June 2012. Ron the Greek was 1-for-9 since that graded stakes win going into the Jockey Club Gold Cup. So it was understandable that he went off at odds of 21-to-1 in the Gold Cup.
With his win, not only did Ron the Greek pay back bettors handsomely; he also earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Ron the Greek spent time on the 2010 Kentucky Derby trail, winning the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes. But he took a long break after the Louisiana Derby, returning as a 4-year-old in 2011.
It took Ron the Greek nearly all of 2011 to get a win but it came in the Sunny and Mild Stakes in November, his second race for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He followed with another stakes victory in December.
As a 5-year-old, Ron the Greek came back as a totally different horse. He finished second in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic but came back a month and a half later to win his first Grade 1 in the Santa Anita Handicap, one of the most prestigious races in the country.
He followed that win up with a victory two races later in another prestigious race, the Stephen Foster Handicap, beating eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
RON THE GREEK (inside) EDGED WISE DAN IN 2012 STEPHEN FOSTER
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Ron the Greek didn’t win any more races in 2012, but he finished second in the Whitney Invitational to eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned. For his last race of the year, he finished fourth in the Classic, only three-quarters of a length behind third-place finisher and stablemate Flat Out.
This year, Ron the Greek hasn’t been at the top of his game, only winning one start but he has finished third behind some pretty notable horses. Shipping to Charles Town Races, he was only about a half-length behind winner Game On Dude and nosed out for second by Clubhouse Ride. A start later he finished third behind Fort Larned in the Stephen Foster Handicap, showing that he still has the talent behind him to put in big races.
While very pleased with Ron the Greek’s Gold Cup win, trainer Mott isn’t necessarily expecting the horse to duplicate that performance at the Breeders’ Cup.
2013 JOCKEY CLUB GOLD CUP
“There wouldn't have been many horses who would have beaten [Ron the Greek] yesterday,” he said a day after the Jockey Club Gold Cup. “He might have fired his best shot right there. I'm not [going to be] disappointed if he doesn't fire that one back.”
Ron the Greek definitely has experience at the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, running five races at the distance. Of those five starts, he has won twice and finished second and fourth, including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Another interesting fact is that 1 ¼ miles is the only distance at which Ron the Greek has competed that he hasn’t run an Equibase Speed Figure under 100. He also tied his highest-ever speed figure of 123 with his Gold Cup victory, showing he very dangerous at 1 ¼ miles. His two 123 speed figures this year - he also earned one in the Sunshine Millions Classic - rank as the fourth-fastest figures of all horses this year.
For comparison, in Ron the Greek’s other two big wins, he ran a 113 in the Santa Anita Handicap and a 114 in the Stephen Foster.
While not very relevant in Thoroughbred breeding where only the female family counts when it comes to noting relations, Ron the Greek’s breeding also comes with a fun fact. His sire, Full Mandate, is a half-brother to Hopeful Stakes winner Strong Mandate, who most likely will make a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the same day as the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Ron the Greek is the best foal for both his sire and his dam. His dam Flambe’ has produced four winners from six starters with only one other foal having any kind of success in stakes company. Ron the Greek’s half-sister finished third in a stakes but definitely does not have the credentials of her brother.
Flambe’ is a half-sister to stakes-placed Fortuesque, who is the dam of 2009 Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Musket Man. The well-known stakes horses in Ron the Greek’s female family do not stop there as his third dam is responsible for producing the female family of Donn Handicap winner Graydar.
Graydar also won the Kelso Handicap over the weekend at Belmont Park, only a few races before Ron the Greek’s Gold Cup victory.
If Strong Mandate (Juvenile) and Graydar (Dirt Mile) both go to the Breeders’ Cup, it will make it a family affair for Ron the Greek.
Ron the Greek’s performance this past weekend proved that the horse has what it takes to run big when it matters most. If he can duplicate that performance in five weeks time, he could be a sleeper to watch at Santa Anita in the Classic.