09/26/2012 2:43PM

Jockey Club Gold Cup lures six Grade 1 winners

Barbara D. Livingston
Fort Larned, shown training last month at Saratoga, is among the leading contenders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Six Grade 1 winners, some in career-form, others seeking to revive past glory, were entered on Wednesday for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont Park.

Fort Larned, a rising star in the handicap division off his impressive victory in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 4, figures to vie for favoritism with Ron the Greek, the Whitney runner-up and winner of the Santa Anita and Stephen Foster handicaps, and Flat Out, last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. Other Grade 1 winners entered include Hymn Book, this year’s Donn Handicap winner, Ruler On Ice, last year’s Belmont winner, and Stay Thirsty, last year’s Travers winner.

[SUPER SATURDAY: PPs and race previews for Belmont Park]

San Pablo, the Grade 3 Iselin winner, 3-year-olds Fast Falcon and Atigun, and longshot Game Ball complete the field.

Fort Larned is 4 for 7 this year with stakes victories at Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream, Prairie Meadows, and Saratoga.

Fort Larned, a son of E Dubai trained by Ian Wilkes, dominated the Whitney, opening up a five-length lead turning for home and settling for 1 1/4-length victory.

“I thought it was a very powerful race,” Wilkes said. “They didn’t walk the dog either. They ran fast all the way. To put five lengths on those horses at the top of the stretch, it was visually impressive. I was very impressed with his race.”

Fort Larned came to Belmont three weeks ago and has worked four times over the main track. His connections feel he has gotten over the surface extremely well.

“Everything’s good, no problems,” Wilkes said. “I’m very happy the way he’s trained. He’s gotten over the track good. He’s run at five different tracks and has run well at all of them.”

Fort Larned will break from post 5 under Brian Hernandez.

The Gold Cup is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, meaning the winner gets all entry-fees paid and a $10,000 travel stipend. Fort Larned has all that taken care of by virtue of his Whitney victory.

That doesn’t lessen the importance of the Gold Cup to Wilkes.

“You certainly don’t want to take a backward step. You want to keep moving forward. You want to keep him in a consistent routine and that’s what he’s been in,” Wilkes said. “This is no race to sneeze at. It’d be a very good honor to win the Jockey Club.”

In the Gold Cup, Fort Larned figures to be forwardly placed, but the race did gain some pace presence with the entry of San Pablo and Ruler On Ice, who won last year’s Belmont from a pace-pressing position.

The addition of pace figures to help Ron the Greek, stablemate Flat Out, and Hymn Book, who all do their best running from off the pace.

“Ron the Greek is one who has always been a deep closer unless he happens to be in a race void of early speed,” trainer Bill Mott said. “A mile-and-a-quarter as opposed to a mile and an eighth, that extra eighth of a mile should help Ron the Greek sustain his run.”

Flat Out and Hymn Book both have done well at Belmont. Flat Out is 2 for 2 with wins in the Suburban and Gold Cup. Hymn Book is 2-2-0 from 4 starts over Belmont’s main track.