09/24/2012 3:17PM

Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont not just a prep for Hymn Book

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Tom Keyser
Hymn Book is one of as many as six Grade 1 winners who could be in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The connections of the majority of the horses running in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park are hoping to use the race as a springboard to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

That would put trainer Shug McGaughey in the minority. As far as Hymn Book is concerned, Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup could very well be his Breeders’ Cup.

“We’re not looking toward the Breeders’ Cup with him,” said McGaughey, who trains Hymn Book, a 6-year-old gelding for Stuart Janney III. “My idea was to take one last big chance with him and see how he does. If we have to back it down a little bit, we’ll back it down a little bit.”

Hymn Book is one of as many as six Grade 1 winners who could be in the Gold Cup when entries are taken and post positions assigned on Wednesday. The Gold Cup, run at 1 1/4 miles, is one of five Grade 1 races and six graded stakes overall on what the New York Racing Association is billing as Super Saturday.

Among the other Grade 1 winners considered definite for the Gold Cup are defending Gold Cup winner Flat Out, Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek, and Whitney winner Fort Larned. Stay Thirsty, last year’s Travers winner and Ruler On Ice, last year’s Belmont winner, are under consideration for the race. Others expected to enter are Atigun, Fast Falcon, and San Pablo.

Hymn Book, who began the year winning the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream, has a 2-2-0 record from 4 starts at Belmont. His two seconds have come in the Grade 2 Suburban each of the last two years.

In the Gold Cup, Hymn Book will be making his first start since finishing fourth to Fort Larned in the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 4. McGaughey skipped the Woodward with Hymn Book to because the gelding prefers Belmont to Saratoga, a fact he again drove home Sunday when he worked four furlongs in 46.87 seconds over the main track.

“I wanted to give him a little break between his races. He likes it here. Obviously he loves it when there’s a little bit of water in the track, which he got this morning,” McGaughey said Sunday after the work. “I think this [cooler] weather is suiting him too. I know it’s a big task, but we’ll see what he can do.”

Also working Sunday was Fort Larned, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00.79 over the Belmont main track, getting his last three furlongs in 34.82 seconds.

“I wanted him to go off in about 26 for the first quarter, and I wanted him to stretch his legs and finish up strong,” said trainer Ian Wilkes. “I was very pleased.”

On Monday, the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Stay Thirsty and San Pablo worked five furlongs together in 1:02.74 after the first renovation break over the Belmont training track. The two finished their last quarter in 24.87 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.28. Ramon Dominguez was aboard Stay Thirsty.

“The track seemed to pick up after the second break, but I thought it was a good solid work,” Pletcher said. “They started off slow, finished up strong, and galloped out well, so I’m happy with the breeze.”

While Stay Thirsty is winless in three starts this year, San Pablo won two stakes in 17 days, including the Grade 3 Philip Iselin Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 18.

“He’s a steadily improving horse,” Pletcher said. “I thought his last race was very good off short rest. He’s got good spacing into this, and I think a mile and a quarter will suit him. We’re optimistic.”

Pletcher said he has both Dominguez and Javier Castellano to ride his horses, but had not yet determined who would ride whom.

LEO More than 1 year ago
this win & your in is not good for the sport,lets say your horse is in what gives the trainer & jock the 100% give it your all?ummm you are all ready in!! look for the the ones that are not in and it's going to cost them some out of pocket $$ to get in,the ones that are in this will be a work out for them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Phil D More than 1 year ago
I look at this race as a redemption race for 3 horses who didn't quite show what they had in past, say last 3,4 races. Stay Thirsty had bad trips going wide 3-4 wide, jock lost whip in one of them. He has 2 post which will help him and might save ground to steal it. Atigun is another one who finds trouble 4 wide and a jock who put a strangle hold in one of his races. Waiting to see his Belmont Stakes run again, could see it. Last is Fast Falcon, maybe found his distance, love to see what he does 2nd crack. All 3 run good at Belmont Park. Lastly WEATHER might play a part in my picks, calling for showers evening, if that happens top 2 are Stay Thirsty and Flat Out both can run good in an off track at Belmont
matt More than 1 year ago
Phil, I love Stay Thirsty in this spot. He is not the most talented, but he will get the trip. Outside posts are brutal going 10f at Belmont. Speed is king going 10f at Belmont. Ramon will get a 48 and change half and be long gone. And no one beats Ramon when he steals a half, no one!
DrSmoke120 More than 1 year ago
Should be a great race. The Fort was brilliant in the Whitney but he kinda snuck up on everyone in the pre race build up. The extra furlong should help the Greek.
adrian More than 1 year ago
as long as ron the greek hits the board, he will ship into cali and hill will win the breeders cup classic. he will close like he did in the santa anita derby. Thats it.
Paul Mitchell More than 1 year ago
I like Fast Falcon in an upset. He was closing nicely in the Travers, and he's sitting on a big one! WatChOuT!!!!
Thomas More than 1 year ago
the winners of the traverse ran horrible in the PA. Derby--i'll look elsewhere's
Matt Bernier More than 1 year ago
I don't hold the Travers' field against Fast Falcon. Alpha is a dumpster fire when he ships out of New York, and I'm not sure what to make of Golden Ticket at this point. He's probably a decent Grade II or III horse. Fast Falcon had a small bit of trouble in the Travers, and he did make a big move at the end. I'm not saying he's going to beat the top older horses on the east coast, but you could do much worse if you were going to take a shot. Wouldn't shock me if he got into the gimmicks at around 20-1.
B More than 1 year ago
Shug does not lean towards west coast tracks, as many know, but I think shipping would be very tempting if Hymn Book were to win the JCGC,. The older male championship is up for grabs at this point, as is nearly every category. He's a nice gelding. There is a lotta win on a few levels in a JCGC/BC Classic win. I hope he has a long & successful career.
JT_OnTheSide More than 1 year ago
I'm secretly hoping that Flat Out doesn't show his hand here and waits for the Classic. I'd love to pound him then.
mike More than 1 year ago
Flat Out has raced well at Belmont and Saturday's win will move him toward the head of the class.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Well, given that hymn book has no prayer in the breeders cup classic, I'm not surprised they aren't viewing this race as a prep.
Marc Estrich More than 1 year ago
Is Mucho Macho Man injured or just skipping this one? He would certainly be in the mix off of his best efforts.
rob More than 1 year ago
Training up to BCC..which i think is a good move