09/29/2012 11:19AM

JC Gold Cup Day: 9/29/2012



12:20 pm: Overcast and cloudy, temps in the 60's, main track harrowed and "good," turf course yielding, races 1 and 4 off the grass on an 11-race Jockey Club Golc Cup card that features five Grade 1 stakes and a two-day $96k pick-6 carryover.

Five scratches, all longshots, from the Super Saturday stakes: Acting Happy and Disposablepleasure from the Beldame (race 5); Isn't He Perfect and Pacific Ocean from the G2 Kelso (race 6); and Starformer from the G1 Flower Bowl (race 8).

The pick-6, with a two-day $96,841 carryover from Thursday, spans races 6-11, meaning that the Beldame is not part of it and the sequence concludes with a New York-bred maiden race on the grass. The middle four races of the pick-6 comprise an all-Grade 1 pick-4 that has a $500k pool guarantee. Here are the lineups as of 12:15 pm:

The stakes action is scheduled to begin with the Beldame at 2:58, and the pick-6 starts at 3:30 with the Kelso. Back before then with thoughts and tickets. Of course I'm playing.

This a strong and important card of racing, filled with showdowns among Grade 1 winners: Royal Delta vs, it's Tricky in the Beldame, Shackleford vs. To Honor and Serve in the Kelso, Point of Entry vs. Little Mike in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and a rematch among the first four finishers in the Aug. 4 Whitney -- Fort Larned, Ron the Greek, Flat Out and Hymn Book.

Today's card includes 5 of the 9 Grade 1 races scheduled for the Belmont fall meeting. The others are the Graden City, won by Samitar Sept. 15, and three to be run next Saturday, Oct. 6 -- the Champagne for 2-year-olds, the Frizette for 2-year-old fillies, and the Jamaica for 3-year-olds on the grass.


1:00 pm: Track appears to be drying and more fast than muddy already as first race for N2L $20k claimers was run in 1:10.71, with 9-5 MTO fave Kid Wando outdueling 7-1 Terminus early and holding off 10-1 up-the-rail The Mixer late. Only a 20 percent chance of more rain, according to forecasts, so main track should be fast by the Beldame.


1:35 pm: Gallant Fields scratched from the Kelso. Rick Dutrow enetered four for the race, and has now scratched all three who appeared to have no chance -- Isn't He perfect, Pacific Ocean and Gallant Fields. He's left with one longshot instead of four, as Trickmeister is still running.


2:05 pm: Good thing (or not) that race 3 wasn't part of pick-6 or we'd be talking about a triple-carry to Sunday: Ground Force paid $100.00 to win in a field of just 7. The Akindale Farm homebred had been off since June and was hard to like off his last five starts -- no better than 5th and beaten a combined 91 lengths -- but six back won this same statebred N1x condition at 9-5.


2:40 pm: It's Tricky (#6) opened 1-5 for the Beldame with Royal Delta (#3) 3-1, but the multirace willpays into the race suggest they'll be much closer by post time:


3:05 pm: The real Royal Delta showed up for the Beldame, stalking It's Tricky under virtual match-race conditions and blowing past her on the turn to score a runaway 9 3/4-length victory in a sharp 1:48.80 for 9f.

Last year's champion 3-year-old filly ran back to her brilliant Fleur de Lis of June 16, when she won by 8 and ran a full second faster than older males a half-hour later in the G1 Stephen Foster.

The victory should make her the favorite in a tough Breeders' Cup Distaff expected to include unbeaten Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia as well as Questing and It's Tricky, though It's Tricky might drop back to the 7f F&M Sprint.

Royal Delta, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly owned by Besilu Stables and trained by Bill Mott, paid $3.70 as the favorite over 6-5 It's Tricky and completed a $6,347 early pick-4.


3:20 pm: Here's the pick-6 play:

Obviously the race that's confounding me is the Vosburgh, leg 2, and I'm putting most of my eggs in the Point of Entry basket in leg 4, the Turf Classic. Otherwise,  have no strong preference between Kelso favorites To Honor and Serve and Shackleford; leaned against Zagora (distance?) with Nahrain and Dream Peace, and prefer proven-at-10f Ron the Greek and Flat Out to the quicker Fort Larned in the main event.


3:45 pm: Jersey Town ($18.00) reached back to his best days and fired a strong shot to win the Kelso over a tired-looking Shackleford, with To Honor and Serve a dull fourth at even-money.

Shackleford bounded out to what looked like a comfortable lead, but after being pressed for half a mile by Trickmeister, he had little left when Jersey Town came off the inside and up beside him at the top of the stretch. Shackleford offered no resistance, and Jersey Town scampered away.

To Honor and Serve came out last, mounted only a mild bid around the turn and then flattened out in the stretch, unable even to catch Trickmeister for third.

Jersey Town, a 6-year-old Charles Fipke homebred sired by Speightstown and trained by Barclay Tagg, had lost all seven of his starts over the last 22 months since winning the 2010 Cigar Mile. Last time out, in the Forego, he made a strong middle-mopve to take a brief lead but then faded late going 7f. He was ridden today for the first time by Javier Castellano, replacing Edgar Prado.


4:05 pm: Royal Currier just reared in gate and got tangled up, prompting late scratch and delay of Vosburgh start. In pick-4 and pick-6, you get switched to the post-time favorite, currently the Sean Avery/The Lumber Guy entry at 2-1 over Justin Phillip at 5-2.


4:15 pm; The Lumber Guy ($6.20), off since May and perceived as the weaker half of an entry with Sean Avery, tracked and caught the leaders and then held off Caiza Electronica late to win the Vosburgh.

This was not a vintage field, but a G1 victory against older horses off a five-month layoff is nonetheless impressive. The Lumber Guy, a Schwartz/Hushion New York-bred who won his debut last Jan. 28, won the Miracle Wood in his second start, led before fading to 5th in the Wood Memorial, then won the Jerome April 21. In the last of his five starts before today, he finished 6th in the Peter Pan.

The Grand Slam colt was third early as Poseidon's Warrior and Little Drama dueled from the start in 22.57 and 45.06. The Lumber Guy edged past them at the furlong pole and prevailed by a length in 1:09.22 as Caixa Electronica flew home for second at an overlaid 7-1.

People who actually liked The Lumber Guy on his own merits have to be annoyed about getting 2-1 on a horse who would probably have been 6-1 or better on his own, while those who liked Sean Avery (or used Royal Currier) can breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.


4:45 pm: Nahrain outfinished Zagora and Dream Peace to win the Flower Bowl at a fat 5-1 for those willing to overlook her previously winless 4-year-old campaign.

Nahrain was 5-2 in last year's Breeders' cup F&M Turf, where she finished second to longshot Perfect Shirl after winning her first four starts in Europe. This year, however, she was 9th, 8th and 3rd in three European starts, two of them at the G2 level.

The inquiry light flashed for more than five minutes after the race, though it was unclear what the stewards were looking at. Hessonite seemed to take a bad step and take up, and Dream Peace may have been nudged a smidge wide by the winner, but no action was taken.

Nahrain, a Darley homebred by Selkirk, trained by Roger Varian, ran the mile and a quarter in 2:05.66 off fractions of 25.33, 51.73, 1:17.43 and 1:41.69.

The first four finishers all were bred in Europe and began their careers there.


5:30 pm: Point of Entry proved he is America's top hope for the Breeders' Cup Turf by winning his fifth straight race and his third straight Grade 1 in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

He was closer to the early pace than usual through slow fractions on the yielding course, trying to stay close to loose leader Little Mike, the Arlington Million winner. But heading into the stretch turn, Little Mike called it quits and it was Treasure Beach who took over, looking strong as Velazquez went into a drive on the favorite. Treasure Beach, however, went very wide, losing some mkomentum, and from that point on Point of Entry just ground his way to the front. The final time was 2:33.73 after fractions of 25.70,51.99, 1:18.16 and 2:08.29.

Point of Entry, a Phipps Stable homebred by Dynaformer, has won the G1 Man o'War, G1 Sword Dancer and the Turf Classic in his last three starts. Trained by Shug McGaughey, Point of Entry was the third straight winner for John Velazquez, who also rode The Lumber Guy in the Vosburgh and Nahrain in the Flower Bowl.


5:40 pm: Here are the willpays into the Jockey Club Gold Cup:

6:05 pm: Flat Out, winless in six starts since last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, nailed 11-1 Stay Thirsty at the wire to join Curlin(2007-2008) and Skip Away (1996-1997) as the only back-to-back winners of the race in the last 20 years. (Update: If you want to go back further, add Creme Fraiche in 1986-87, Slew o'Gold in 1983-84, Shuvee in 1970-71, Kelso FIVE times from 1960-64, Nashua in 1955-56, Dark Secret in 1933-34 and Mad Hatter in 1921-22.)

Trained last year by Scooter Dickey, Flat Out has been under Bill Mott's care for his last three starts this year. The 6-year-old by Flatter was ridden today for the first time by Joel Rosario, replacing Rosie Napravnik.

Rosario had Flat Out in 6th early as Ruler on Ice and San Pablo chased Stay Thirsty. Fort Larned made his move entering the stretch turn but couldn't get by Stay Thirsty, and then Flat Out moved up on their outside and got there one stride before the wire.

Flat Out, who paid $9.30 as the third choice, ran the 10f in 2:01.44 after fractions of 23.49, 47.21, 1:11.96 and 1:36.41. Fort Larned settled for third with Atigun fourth.

The all-G1 paid $352 for $2. Here are the willpays into the finale, a statebred maiden race. I'm alive to the 1 ($16k),4 ($13k) and 11 ($42k) in the pick-6:


6:30 pm: Thank you Barnard's Galaxy ($11.60/$16,530), and thanks to the commenters for all that good karma and encouragement. Who's thirsty? I'm buying.