10/03/2009 12:03PM

Gold Cup Day '09


Overcast and gloomy but still fast and good for today's Jockey Club Gold Cup and four other Grade 1 races at Belmont. Just a few sprinkles overnight and the latest forecasts call for some clearing this afternoon and no precipitation until around 6 p.m. The stakes racing starts with the Beldame at 3:23 pm ET and the Gold Cup post is scheduled for 5:43 pm.


Just four betting interests in each of the first two stakes. The Beldame has a field of five, three of them trained by Pletcher, with Unbirdled Belle and Captain's Lover coupled and With Flying Colors on her own at 20-1. Music Note figures to be 3-5 or less. In the Vosburgh, Peace Chant has been scratched, leaving Fabulous Strike 4-5ish against Munnings, Kodiak Kowboy and Go Go Shoot. Also, as expected, Christophe Clement has scratched Carribean Sunset from the Flower Bowl and Winchester from the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Ready's Echo also is out of the Turf Classic and will instead run tomorrow in the five-horse Kelso Handicap. So the five Grade 1's today are left with fields of 5, 4, 7, 7, and 7.

Multirace players like this one will have to decide whether to focus on the $500k-guaranteed pick-4 (Vosburgh, Flower Bowl, Turf Classic Gold Cup) or the no-carryover pick-6 where those four races are bookended by the Beldame and a 12-horse finale of statebred maidens on the grass. Not that there's a law against playing both. If you think the interior four races are chalky and have the makings of a $62 pick-4, you could go one or two deep in the Beldame and try to blow things out in the finale if you have some clever ideas there. I'm still looking for some.

The Flower Bowl looks like the most open race in the pick-4 sequence. Pure Clan may go off as the favorite but has neither any edge on the field nor a performance anywhere in her career that stacks up with the top efforts by Criticism, Dynafoce or Moneycantbuymelove. I can't see Leamington or Queen of Hearts winning the race, but have all five others open.

The Gold Cup itself is a really good race on paper. Summer Bird likes the track and distance and may be the most likely winner but I'm not entirely sold on him if Macho Again or Quality Road fires his very best shot. I'm not knocking the favorite, just slightly reserved because I don't think any of his top opponents in either the Belmont or Travers really ran his race. (In the Belmont, Dunkirk did the dirty work up front and came out of the race injured while Mine That Bird got a poorly-trimed ride; in the Travers, Quality Road struggled with the footing and Kensei didn't run his race.)

If Summer Bird does prevail, he'll be the first horse to win the Belmont, Travers and Gold Cup since Easy Goer 20 years ago.

I'm heading out to Belmont soon. Full report later tonight or in the morning.

---I've gotten a few comments about the new Weekend section that will appear in Saturday editions of DRF starting today, but this blog isn't the best place to discuss it. Please address any thoughts about it to weekend@drf.com, where I've forwarded your comments.