There are not a lot of races with the kind of storied history the Jockey Club Gold Cup has. Sadly, of late it has lost some of its previous luster. It was a race that made champions and champions competed in.
It has been run at two miles, and a mile and a half. Today it is a mile and a quarter, a reflection of how much American racing has changed.
In an attempt to restore some of the lost glory NYRA has moved the still Grade 1 race to legendary Saratoga to close out the final Saturday of the meet.
The field this year consists of six runners some of which are looking ahead to possibly making the gate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. You almost have to be disappointed at the small field, but we’ve seen this all too often of late, so it is not any surprise.
Forza Di Oro will break from the rail for Bill Mott under Junior Alvarado. He has one race back as a four-year-old and it was a winning effort over a muddy track right here at Saratoga. The water gets deeper here but he won that race pretty easy and has been flashing serious talent since 2019. If he has it this looks like a good spot to show it. He should be on or at the least very close to the lead from the rail draw. He can prove to be a handful in here.
Max Player won a sloppy Suburban at Belmont last out. He was closer to the pace than he had ever been in that race and still finished. Has Steve Asmussen put speed into this closer or was it the sloppy track? I’m leaning towards the latter and don’t see him as a likely repeater.
Chess Chief is going turf to dirt for Dallas Stewart who knows how to win Grade 1 races at big prices. I don’t think Chess Chief is good enough or that the pace scenario I envision favors him, but I do see him closing late for a piece and some involvement in the exotics. Top rider Luis Saez helps his cause.
Happy Saver was five for five going into the sloppy Suburban won by Max Player. He is one for one at the Spa and will seek redemption and potential star status here as one of the favorites. I think he will rebound, and I think he will handle the Suburban horses. Forza Di Oro could be another story. He should get an excellent trio under Irad Ortiz and the way this contest shapes up he should be in the thick of it throughout.
Night Ops is a solid and honest racehorse. He brings it almost every time and you must think he will again in here. I think he is third best and needs two falters to win.
Forewarned will be bombs away in here and should be. He looks over his head against these.
I think there is a good chance this race is won out of the gate. Who guns to the lead? Will it be Junior from the rail or Irad a bit outside of him? It could be that simple and both riders are smart enough to know and see this, and not to cook each other in a suicide duel. I’ll be watching the break and first sixteenth of a mile intently. I think we will know the winner at that point.