09/25/2013 3:15PM

Belmont: Jockey Club Gold Cup a distance test for Cross Traffic

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Barbara D. Livingston
Cross Traffic (left), training with stablemate Graydar at Belmont, must show he can handle 1 1/4 miles in the Jockey Club Gold Cup to move on to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – By virtue of his victory in the Whitney Invitational, Cross Traffic earned a fees-paid berth into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. In Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, Cross Traffic must prove that’s the race in which he belongs.

To date, Cross Traffic has been brilliant in victory – and perhaps more so in defeat – finishing first or second in all five of his starts. What he must prove Saturday is his ability to get 1 1/4 miles, the distance of both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be run Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

Cross Traffic will have to do it against a strong field of eight assembled for the 95th running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the highlight on a spectacular 11-race card that includes four other Grade 1 races and the Grade 2 Kelso. Seven Grade 1 or Group 1 horses are in the Gold Cup, including two-time defending race champion Flat Out, Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, 2012 Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek, Woodward winner Alpha, and Brazilian Group 1 winner Vitoria Olimpica. Last Gunfighter makes his Grade 1 debut after winning 4 of 5 starts this year, including a trio of Grade 3 stakes.

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Cross Traffic’s speed caught most people’s attention when he set blistering fractions but lost heart-breaking decisions to Flat Out in the Grade 3 Westchester in April and Sahara Sky in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in May, both one-turn mile races at Belmont.

Cross Traffic, a son of Unbridled’s Song, won his two-turn debut when he set sensible fractions and held off a late-running Successful Dan in the Grade 1 Whitney, his first race at 1 1/8 miles, at Saratoga.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Cross Traffic, said his horse “galloped out pretty strongly” after the wire in both the Westchester and Met Mile.

“That gave us confidence that going to a mile and an eighth will be in his scope,” Pletcher said. “We’ll have to see about the mile and a quarter, but everything that he’s shown indicates it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Pletcher said the Classic is “the obvious target” for Cross Traffic but “if for some reason he showed us a mile and a quarter wasn’t what he was looking for then we could always back up into the Dirt Mile,” Pletcher said.

Cross Traffic, owned by GoldMark Farm, drew post 8, one spot outside his stablemate Palace Malice, who returns to the track over which he won the Belmont Stakes three months ago. Palace Malice will try to become the fourth 3-year-old in the last seven runnings to win the Gold Cup. That list includes Curlin, the sire of Palace Malice, who won this race in 2007 and 2008.

Palace Malice is trying to bounce back from a narrow fourth-place finish in the Travers, a race in which he was compromised by a poor start but came with a good finish. Since he’s run well at distances of 1 1/4 miles or further, Palace Malice has already secured his spot in the Classic in Pletcher’s view.

“It’s not that he has to earn his way in or prove that he can handle the distance; it’s just run well, come out of it well, and move on to the next one,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher also entered a third-horse, Vitoria Olimpica, who is not Breeders’ Cup nominated and who entered only after an overnight stakes earlier in the week failed to fill.

Stanley More than 1 year ago
Handicapping made easy- When Shug and Pletcher are in the same race-take Shugs horse, he has Pletchers number. from Plowville, Pa
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
So many questions will be answered in this race. Super Saturday indeed.
Mine thatbird More than 1 year ago
Excited to watch this race but will most likely not be playing. I like both of the 3yo's and hard to pass on Flat Out; if I had a play it would be those 3 tri ex box but the value just isn't there. I think CT is a great horse but I am skeptical on the distance; even more than breeding is he is going distance first time and almost everyone else has a win at distance.
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
"Cross Traffic" should be in the one mile "Kelso". He seems to run more like a miler. But he is a gamer, so if he's more than 5 -1, he would be worth a shot.
Steve S More than 1 year ago
I don't know...Cross Traffic, although winning his last race, looked like he was ready to fall over. I have to think that 1 1/4 is beyond his wheelhouse.
edb More than 1 year ago
Cross Traffic looks great on paper and looks like a much better miler. Another horse that has something to prove sat. Should have minimum 5-1 to 8-1 range odds wise and so an interesting bet. Should be in the supers, but lots of closers will be coming fast. Better do a Precious Passion imitation and open up as much space as possible. If the big three get involved with each other and get distracted, LG could slip by and get a nice piece of the purse. As for Beldame, RD at 4-5 and POS at 2-1 seems about right. RD/ POS/ all seems right too. Just make it a $20 tri with your favorite 3rd place horse.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
3-5 with 2-1 with all is a horrible bet. There are better opportunities for your wagering dollar. I highly doubt Traffic will be as high as 8-1.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
The mathematics say Vitoria Olympica...
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Sounds like fuzzy math.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Actually I was impressed with his last race. He's a big horse and was just bouncing along close to the leaders, very game between horses to get the win. I just think when traffic gets to running into the lane he might not keep up, but do expect a good effort from him. As far as the math goes, it says Traffic to me.
John Anthony More than 1 year ago
Morning line for Beldame has Royal Delta at 3-5 and Princess of Sylmar at 2-1...does anyone have opinion on what final odds will be and prediction for race ??
Perl More than 1 year ago
the ML is pretty solid.
tim More than 1 year ago
Agree. But I think the real chances of Sylmar beating Royal Delta is more like 6/1.
offbeatbull More than 1 year ago
Royal Delta will 'bleed' and fail to hit the board. Someone jumps off a 'bridge'.
John Anthony More than 1 year ago
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Gerald Sabo More than 1 year ago
Eddy S., they are all real races with good horses, anything from sprints to marathons. Distance doesn't make it a better race with better horses. Dr. Fager off the top of my head, he was distance limited and a bunch of others also.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Dr Fager was distance limited when going long and running fractions of 22+, 45+, and 1:09+, but when he got six in 1:11 he tied the track record at 1 1/4. Don't know if I'd say that makes him distance limited. Some things never change, and if Cross Traffic goes 1:10 and tires then he's distance limited and if he goes 1:12 and change and is right there then he's a distance horse?
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Another thing about Dr Fager. Of course he would have been a better miler. But, when there was a big race, he showed up, sometimes running back in about two weeks, regardless of distance. This allowed him to get an unprecedented four championships in one season. I'll give credit to Traffic's connections for giving him the chance, and with speed, stalkers and closers, we get a classic Gold Cup of high caliber.