Updated on 09/15/2011 1:10PM

How good is Aptitude?


ELMONT, N.Y. - Of the eight horses to have won Grade 1 races for Bobby Frankel this year, Aptitude may be the one that gets the least respect.

Unlike others in his barn such as Flute and Lido Palace, Frankel has to play cheerleader as well as trainer for Aptitude, who a year ago at this time was still eligible for his preliminary allowance condition and had yet to win a dirt race.

Aptitude has overcome myriad nagging injuries that Frankel believes held him back, and it now appears he has gotten good at the right time. Exactly how good should become more evident on Saturday when Aptitude takes on Albert the Great and five others in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

"I got a lot of confidence in Aptitude I like him and I think Jerry [Bailey] likes him too," said Frankel, who will also send out Sumitas. "This is the soundest he's ever been."

The Grade 1 Gold Cup tops an 11-race card that features four other graded stakes, which serve as preps for the World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 27 at Belmont. A mixed bag of regional and national television coverage will be available. Fox Sports New York, via TVG, will televise the Gold Cup and Kelso live and the Beldame and Frizette on tape during a one-hour telecast (5-6 p.m. Eastern). The Grade 1 Champagne will be televised on CNBC (4-5 p.m.).

The last time Aptitude ran at Belmont, he finished a suck-up second as the favorite to longshot Commendable in the 2000 Belmont Stakes. After a lengthy freshening, Aptitude won his first dirt race at Churchill Downs in October. That earned him the favorite's role in the Clark Handicap, in which he finished eighth behind the filly Surfside.

Frankel said Aptitude entrapped his epiglottis that day, and in December he had throat surgery. Frankel said Aptitude has also battled "immature ankles."

Aptitude did not run again until March when he finished a wide sixth behind Captain Steve in the Dubai World Cup.

Following a third-place finish in the Californian, Frankel elected to try blinkers on Aptitude. They seemed to have made a difference. He was closer to the pace and was finishing at the end of the Hollywood Gold Cup. While he ended up second that day, he was moved to first when Futural, the first-place finisher, interfered with another horse.

Aptitude was given another eight weeks off before winning the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap on Aug. 29 against Perfect Cat and Gander. Aptitude earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 116 in what was by far the best performance of his career.

"Those are the same horses that are running with Albert the Great and Lido Palace and he beat them convincingly, giving them all seven pounds," said Frankel, who noted that Gander came back to win the Meadowlands Cup.

Saturday, Aptitude will be carrying equal weight with Albert the Great, the probable favorite and defending Gold Cup champion. Albert the Great is 6 for 8 at Belmont including last year's Gold Cup, where he ran the fastest 1 1/4 miles by a 3-year-old in New York. It remains his lone Grade 1 victory.

Albert the Great lost his last two starts, finishing second behind Lido Palace in the Whitney and Woodward. His two most recent workouts indicate to trainer Nick Zito that a long season has not taken a toll on Albert the Great, who gets a rider switch to Gary Stevens.

"He ran a great race in the Woodward, he was just beaten," Zito said. "We all should be as consistent as Albert. It's just a question of whether we can get past Bobby Frankel."

Zito was pleased to see Albert the Great draw post 6, enabling Stevens to see what the other speed horses - Sumitas and Generous Rosi - do out of the gate.

In addition to Albert the Great, Zito will run A P Valentine as well. The winner of last year's Champagne Stakes, A P Valentine has failed to live up to the expectations Zito set for him, but has one last chance to make amends. Zito points to A P Valentine's 2-1-0 record from three Belmont starts and his two most recent workouts as reasons to be optimistic.

The remainder of the Gold Cup field is suspect. Scorpion is a Grade 1-winning 3-year-old who comes in off two disappointing efforts. He is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who has made a career of winning Grade 1 races at big prices.

Generous Rosi has won two straight and has the speed to be a nuisance to Albert the Great up front and will be ridden by Jorge Chavez, Albert the Great's former rider.

Country Be Gold, who finished fourth in the Woodward, completes the field.

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