09/03/2014 12:39PM

Jockey Club Gold Cup highlights fall meet

Barbara D. Livingston
The Belmont Park fall meet will feature 42 stakes worth a total of $11 million.

ELMONT, N.Y. – With much less fanfare but no less importance than the last seven weeks at Saratoga, racing on this circuit resumes Friday when Belmont Park opens its 38-day fall season.

Following a three-day race week to get started, racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule beginning next week, with the exception of Oct. 13 when there will be a Columbus Day Monday program.

The Breeders’ Cup has chipped away at Belmont’s claim to being the fall championship meet, but there are still plenty of important events among its 42 stakes races – worth $11 million – which will help determine the East Coast’s top contenders heading into the Breeders’ Cup, held for a third straight year at Santa Anita on Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup is one of five Grade 1 stakes, and six graded events overall, on a Sept. 27 card that will include a tribute to recently retired track announcer Tom Durkin. The New York Racing Association will honor Durkin with a bobble-head, and Durkin will conduct an autograph signing.

With Durkin in retirement, John Imbriale will call the races this fall at Belmont.

The Gold Cup could be a pivotal race for determining the Breeders’ Cup Classic status of Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, who both skipped the Woodward Stakes after dull efforts in the Whitney on Aug. 2. Moreno, the Whitney winner and Woodward runner-up, is expected to run in the Gold Cup. The 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup could include the Travers top-three finishers – V. E. Day, Wicked Strong, and Tonalist – though the connections of those horses have yet to confirm their plans.

Princess of Sylmar, who upset Royal Delta in last year’s Beldame, has resumed training after coming down with a case of the thumps – a condition often caused by an electrolyte imbalance – when she finished fifth in the Personal Ensign on Aug. 22. She is training toward the Beldame, also on the Sept. 27 card. She is not expected to face Personal Ensign winner Close Hatches, who is being pointed to the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 4.

On Oct. 4, 2-year-olds are featured in the Grade 1 Champagne for males and Grade 1 Frizette for females. Competitive Edge, who established himself as the top 2-year-old on the East Coast with a dominant performance in Monday’s Grade 1 Hopeful, is under consideration for the Champagne. Competitive Edge is trained by Todd Pletcher, who also won maiden races with Carpe Diem and Two Weeks Off over the final weekend at Saratoga. Pletcher will likely look to split those horses up among the Champagne, Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, and FrontRunner at Santa Anita.

The final big weekend of the Belmont meet will be the New York Showcase Day card, which features eight stakes restricted to New York-breds with purses totaling $1.75 million. The $300,000 Empire Classic tops the program.

Trainer Chad Brown will be seeking his third consecutive Belmont fall trainers title, having won it outright last year after sharing it with David Jacobson in 2012.

Javier Castellano, coming off his second consecutive Saratoga riding title, is aiming for his third Belmont fall title in the last four years.