Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes and other major races Saturday at Belmont Park that serve as a prelude to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7 at Keeneland Race Course:
FINALLY!: Few major New York races have eluded Todd Pletcher during his illustrious training career. The Jockey Club Gold Cup had been one of them, with seven runner-up finishes from 23 previous starters. His exasperation included last year, when Vino Rosso was disqualified and placed second for interfering with Code of Honor during the stretch run. The frustration ended when Happy Saver, making his graded stakes debut, edged fellow 3-year-old Mystic Guide by three-quarters of a length with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard in Saturday's 102nd running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup to gain a fees-paid berth in the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7. Pletcher was relieved to finally break through. “Not only had we not won it, we’d suffered some really close defeats and then throw in a disqualification on top of that and it’s been a frustrating one over the years. This one was fun,” he said.
WHAT A WARRIOR: Jackie’s Warrior, a son of Maclean’s Music, won for the fourth time in as many starts with a front-running 5 ½-length rout against Reinvestment Risk in the Champagne Stakes. The one-mile race was a “Win and In” event for the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which highlights Future Stars Friday on Nov 6 at Keeneland. The Juvenile will represent the first try around two turns for Jackie’s Warrior. “I think the further he goes, the better,” said winning jockey Joel Rosario. Toby Sheets, an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, shares that optimism. “He’s a class act and does everything correct. The one-turn mile certainly didn’t seem to bother him,” he said of the undefeated colt.
PERFECT PLAN: Trainer Tim Hamm’s willingness to develop Dayoutoftheoffice with an eye toward late-season success was rewarded when she provided him with his first Grade 1 victory, an impressive two-length decision in the Frizette Stakes. The result was accompanied by an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6 at Keeneland. “We wanted to just train her a little lightly and have her fresh for the fall run,” Hamm said. “Everything went according to plan.” The Into Mischief filly was unraced at 2. She did not debut until May 14 and is undefeated through three starts.
LATE-BLOSSOMING MARE: Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey never imagined 5-year-old mare Civil Union possessed Grade 1 potential when she was no better than third in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park at the end of January. She showed how far she has come when she teamed with Rosario to repel My Sister Nat by a head to win the Flower Bowl Stakes in her first Grade 1 attempt. The mile-and-a-quarter contest was a “Win and In” for the $2 million Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf. McGaughey plans to confer with owner Joseph Allen about whether to go on to the Breeders’ Cup. “If she was doing as well as she’s done all summer, it’s probably worth giving a whirl,” McGaughey said. “But I’ll just have to wait and see.”
ONE TO WATCH: French-bred Tamahere overcame a layoff of nearly three months and made a successful North American debut for trainer Chad Brown when she rolled to a two-length victory in the $150,000 Sands Point Stakes. She showed she is still a bit of a project when she was difficult to load into the starting gate and was a bit keen in the early going of the one-turn mile. Brown views her as an intriguing 3-year-old after she displayed a brilliant turn of foot to complete the mile in 1:35.21. “She’s a really exciting horse to have for the future,” he said. “We’re lucky to have her. She gave us a lot of confidence that she would be a good horse.”