Five Key Takeaways from Jockey Club Gold Cup Saturday

Code of Honor (left) finished a nose behind Vino Rosso at the finish of the Jockey Club Gold Cup but was awarded first place when the latter was disqualified. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the $750,000, Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and other major races on Saturday at Belmont Park:

NO-BRAINER: For those who had been debating whether Code of Honor or Maximum Security should receive the Eclipse Award as leading 3-year-old, Runappy Travers Stakes victor Code of Honor turned that into a no-brainer in the oddest of years. He was elevated to second when Maximum Security was disqualified for interference in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his first test against older horses when stewards took down Vino Rosso for interference. Maximum Security was scratched from the Pennsylvania Derby with a colon issue, and has not run since his Haskell Invitational score. “Maximum Security has won a couple of Grade 1s, but where’s he now?” said Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor’s Hall of Fame trainer. “We’ve been going since the first of January. I think that says a lot.”

Winner's circle celebration. (Eclipse Sportswire)

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: William S. Farish, who owns Code of Honor, sounded decidedly undecided about whether his colt will go on to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. “That’s up in the air,” he said. “This horse needs a little vacation but, on the other hand, he comes out of his races well and that’s certainly a possibility.” Code of Honor has made seven starts this season in a carefully-spaced campaign that began with an inauspicious fourth-place finish in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 5 at Gulfstream Park.

Midnight Bisou rolls in Beldame. (Eclipse Sportswire)

STILL PERFECT: Midnight Bisou made the $300,000, Grade 2 Beldame Stakes look as easy as her overwhelming favoritism suggested it would be. She shook off a challenge from Wow Cat and got the job done by 3 ¼ lengths for John Velazquez, subbing for regular rider Mike Smith. While Smith remained at Santa Anita to ride McKinzie in the Awesome Again Stakes, Midnight Bisou extended her perfection to 7 for 7 this season. “It was pretty easy for her,” Velazquez said. “I didn’t have to do very much, just keep her out of trouble and she did what she had to do.” With McKinzie being upset in the Awesome Again, Midnight Bisou’s connections might at least be tempted to take on the boys in the Classic since they have nothing to prove in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff.

IMPRESSIVE IN DEFEAT: Wow Cat, second in last year’s Longines Distaff, suggested she can be a factor again this year for powerhouse trainer Chad Brown. She was impressive in her ability to collar Midnight Bisou, however briefly, in the Beldame. She won the Beldame last year and jockey Jose Ortiz, in comparing this year’s runner-up performance to that of last October, noted, “She ran the same exact race last year.” Ortiz quickly began looking forward to another run at the Distaff. “She ran good in the Breeders’ Cup last year,” he said. “I think this will set her up just the same.”

Imperial Hint and connections. (Eclipse Sportswire)

ALL HEART: Trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. was hoping for a replay of last year’s Vosburgh Stakes, where Imperial Hint coasted. He did not get that in Saturday’s renewal of the $300,00, Grade 1 Vosburgh, as his horse fought for all he was worth to outslug Firenze Fire in a tremendous stretch duel to secure an automatic, expense-paid entry into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The race was hard enough that Carvajal said he will change his training schedule and have a light touch with the diminutive Imperial Hint. “This will be enough,” he said. “I won’t worry too much about getting him a lot of works or anything like that.”

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!