09/28/2013 12:41PM

Belmont 9/28/2013: Jockey Club Gold Cup Day


1:15 pm: Happy Jockey Club Gold Cup Day at Belmont Park, where it's fast and firm, sunny and 73 degrees. A few housekeeping notes about the 11-race card, which includes 5 of the 9 Grade 1 races at the meeting:

*The pick-6 (no carryover after one winner yesterday for $150k) is on races 6 through 11 -- not the six graded stakes races. It starts one race later with the Kelso and ends with a statebred maiden turf sprint. So the Beldame, a showdown between Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, ends the Pick-5 and early pick-4 but is not part of the pick-6.

*The late pick-4, however, is on races 7 through 10 -- the Vosburgh, Flower Bowl, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

*Three early scratches from the stakes: Lady Cohiba from the Beldame, leaving a field of five and no superfecta; Palace from the Vosburgh, and Boisterous from the Turf Classic.

The opener, a turf sprint for statebred N1xers, went to front-running Iron Power. The grass is very quick, as the winner went 7f in 1:20.70.


1:45 pm: Misconnect, second to Champagne-bound Honor Code in his Saratoga debut, surged late to run down 5-2 Endowment Manager (good 2nd to Sound of Freedom in Spa debut) to win 2yo maiden-special by a length. Misconnect, a $180k Unbridled's Song/Repole/Pletcher 2-year-old purchase, was 13-10 in debut, looked home until Honor Code's spectacular rally up the rail in the slop.

Race was bet as if none of the firsters were in same league as the two faves. The only one who took any money, Tiznow/Mott/Winstar homebred Tourist (6-1 early, 10-1 at post), was best of rest running third beaten 3 3/4. Winner's time was 1:22.65.


2:15 pm: Storming Inti, third to next-out winners Bashart (With Anticipation S.) and Arctic Slope (CD MSW) in Spa debut, pounded from 3-1 ML to 6-5 and prevailed over 2yo grass maidens in 3rd with perfect trip. Chad Brown trainee was close second to 5-1 Mack Miller through slow fractions, took over from that one in stretch and 17-1 Darley second-timer Good Response settled for 2nd.

2:50 pm: Those inclined to think Belmont still favoring inside speed got some reinforcement in the 4th as chronic stopper Cay to Pomeroy led from gate to wire in 1:09.60 for 6f. Granted, he was rounding back to form, and got an easy half in 45.32 with only a 51-1 shot in pursuit, but still.

The multirace willpays into the Beldame have Royal Delta less than half the price of Princess of Sylmar: $82.50 vs. $175 in the pick-3, $240 vs. $536 in the pick-4, $2375 vs. $5984 in the pick-5 (all $2 prices.)

The older, more experienced Royal Delta deserves to be favored, and her tactical speed gives her an edge. On the other hand, Princess of Sylmar should love Belmont (it's her first start over the track) if it's fair. I can't wait to see what happens and hats off to Ed Stanco, Princess of Sylmar's owner, for taking on Royal Delta in this spot.

3:20 pm: Princess of Sylmar ($6.20) ran down 1-to-5 Royal Delta to win the Beldame by two lengths, capping off an outstanding campaign and locking up the 3-year-old filly championship. As Durkin nicely put it, "It took a champion to beat a champion."

Royal Delta tracked 35-1 Roman Invader through fractions of 23.78, 46.71 and 1:10.53 down the straightaway and appeared to be on a loose rein with lots left for the inevitable challenge of Princess of Sylmar, who was fourth at the inside early. When the 3-year-old made her move, though, she went by Royal Delta with little resistance and opened daylight as she finished in 1:47.93 for the one-turn nine furlongs.

With victories in the Kentucky Oaks, CCA Oaks, Alabama and Beldame, Princess of Sylmar seems to have locked up an Eclipse Award. Her connections are not inclined to travel to California run in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but the daughter of Majestic Warrior is scheduled to race next year as a 4-year-old.

Not playing the no-carryover pick-6 that starts in 20 minutes with the Kelso. I have no strong opinions or singles/doubles to anchor my play around, so will instead put in a spready pick-4 play in the all-stakes pick-4 that starts with the 7th.

3:50 pm: Guess the Kelso was as easy as the public thought as Graydar led from start to finish at 4-to-5 in his first start since March 30. I was unconvinced because a flat mile is such a tough distance to win at off a long layoff, and because I thought someone would make him run his opening half faster than the 47.11 in which he was clear.

Graydar's next start is unclear -- he's being considered for the BC Dirt Mile at today's distance or a stretchout to the BC Classic at 10f, a furlong farther than he's travelled. Graydar, who ran the mile in 1:34.08, has now won 5 of 6 career starts for Twin Creeks Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher. Brujo de Olleres was second and Hymn Book a late-closing third.

Here's that late pick-4 play. All races are open, and I'm hoping they turn out that way. I've gone with only Flat Out and the two 3-year-olds in the Gold Cup because much as I admire Cross Traffic's brilliance, I'm betting that 10f is one furlong too far for him.


4:30 pm: Private Zone regained the lead after being passed in deep stretch by Justin Phillip. and then survived a stewards' inquiry and a claim of foul, to win the Vosburgh in a gutsy effort.

Justin Phillip looked like a certain winner when he inched ahead of the early leader in deep stretch, but Private Zone came back at the rail and outfinished him. Head-ons showed that Private Zone did come out slightly in deep stretch, but the contact appeared incidental and it appearedJustin Phillip may have come in on him a few strides earlier.

Private Zone, a Canadian-bred, California-based 4-year-old gelding by Macho Uno, was second in four stakes in California last winter, then went to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen, where he finished 9th. He was off until winning the restricted Pirates Booty in his last start, then was sent here by trainer Doug O'Neill. He ran the 6f today in 1:08.02 and is headed home for the BC Sprint.

5:00 pm: Laughing ($3.20)won her fourth straight graded stakes and second Grade 1 as she led from start to finish and stretched out to win the Flower Bowl over her entrymate Tannery. Mystical Star finished third behind the Richard Santulli-owned entry.

Laughing's string of victories in the G3 Eatontown, G1 Diana, G2 Ballston Spa and the G1 Flower Bowl is a commendable resume, but she's not going to scare anyone off for the BC F&M Turf. She has been winning narrowly on rock-hard courses with perfect setups, none better than today's crawling pace of 6f in 1:16.02, and the field she faced today was short of Grade 1 quality. Tannery and Mystical Star, both beaten less than a length, are a combined 1 for 19 in U.S. graded stakes.

5:35 pm: Little Mike, who had been off form and fourth or worse in all four of his starts this year, turned back the 4-5 entrymates Real Solution on the outside and Big Blue Kitten on the inside to win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 7-1.

In a field that seemed to have plenty of early speed, Little Mike laid slightly off the pace, took over at the top of the stretch, and grimly held on in a head-bob at the wire. The 6-year-old Spanish Steps gelding will now try to defend his title in the Breeders' Cup Turf, where he held off a troubled Point of Entry last year.

Palace Malice opened the favorite for the Club Gold Cup. He's favored in the double willpays as well, but Cross Traffic is a narrow favorite in the pick-3 willpays.

Apologies -- seem to be having trouble with the commenting system.

6:10 pm: Ron the Greek ($44.00)suddenly ran back to his best form and scored a runaway victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, with Palace Malice a distant second, Flat Out third in his bid for a third straight JCGC, and Orb last.

The race was weird from start to finish as Cross Traffic, front-running winner of the Whitney, walked out of the gate and was sluggish thereafter, never getting involved. Alpha led with Palace Malice in close pursuit, and Ron the Greek closer than usual at the rail. Turning for home, Palace Malice got by Alpha, but Ron the Greek came shooting through at the rail and powered away, finishing the 10f in 1:59.70.

Only three (though the logical three) are covered in the pick-6: Two live tickets at $79k to #11 Stock Fund, one each at $159k to #5 Coriander and #13 Live Life Fast.

The all-stakes pick-4 of Private Zone, Laughing, Little Mike and Ron the Greek paid $7,241 for $2.

6:40 pm: Coriander beat Stock Fund to win the finale, so one winner of the pick-6 at $159k and no carryover. Lots to ponder in the wake of today's racing; five weeks to the Breeders' Cup.