09/27/2014 7:39PM

Tonalist rallies from next to last to score in Jockey Club Gold Cup

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Barbara D. Livingston
With blinkers off, Tonalist rallied from next to last Saturday to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – A change of equipment combined with a return to his favorite surface proved a recipe for success for Tonalist, who rallied from next to last to win Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Tonalist, who went winless in two starts at Saratoga after winning the Belmont Stakes here in June, defeated Zivo by 1 3/4 lengths. It was two lengths back to the 52-1 shot Long River in third. Tonalist won the Jockey Club as a slight 3-1 favorite over Wicked Strong.

By virtue of his victory in the Gold Cup, Tonalist earned a fees-paid berth into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

The race was marred by an incident 4 1/2 furlongs from the wire in which jockey Rajiv Maragh was unseated from Wicked Strong. Maragh was taken by ambulance to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, and according to his valet, Harry Rice, Maragh, told his wife via cell phone that he feared he broke his right arm.

Wicked Strong, according to his trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, was reported to be OK.

The incident was caused when jockey Junior Alvarado allowed Moreno to drift, and Wicked Strong, who was sitting fourth at the time, clipped heels with him. Wicked Strong stumbled and hurled Maragh hard to the ground hard. Maragh may have been kicked by a trailing horse.

Moreno, who finished fourth, was disqualified by the stewards and placed last.

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Stephanoatsee, who finished fifth, was moved to fourth and was followed by V.E. Day, Last Gunfighter, Big Cazanova, and Speak Logistics to complete the order of finish. Micromanage was eased and did not finish the race. Prayer for Relief was scratched by the track veterinarian after twice flipping in the paddock.

Tonalist added the Jockey Club Gold Cup to his victories in the Belmont Stakes and, before that, the Grade 2 Peter Pan, both at Belmont Park.

Tonalist was beaten in both the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga. Christophe Clement, Tonalist’s trainer, felt the horse was too aggressive in the Travers and removed blinkers from the horse’s equipment.

“I probably should have removed the blinkers before the Travers,” said Clement.

Tonalist certainly relaxed as he was next to last, more than 10 lengths back early on.

“I was probably a little far back but never worried about it,” jockey Joel Rosario said. “I don’t want to make him do something he doesn’t want to do.”

Rosario said his momentum was not stopped when Maragh got unseated, though he did have to go one path around. Rosario guided Tonalist back to the inside, and he steadily advanced into contention. Big Cazanova had set the pace of 23.60 seconds for the quarter, 47.42 for the half, and 1:11.26 for six furlongs chased by Moreno and Long River.

Clement said when he saw the half-mile fraction, he was confident the frontrunners “were going to come back a little bit. I didn’t know how much they were going to come back, but I knew they would come back.”

Rosario initially had thought about going to the outside in the stretch, but he guided Tonalist back to the inside where he saw a hole. The hole closed, and Rosario had to take Tonalist off the rail.

Tonalist split horses in mid-stretch and went past Long River inside the eighth pole en route to the victory. Tonalist, a son of Tapit owned by Robert S. Evans, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.12 and returned $8.10 to win.

“From the three-eighths on, I thought he looked really good because without being used, he was getting closer and closer, and you could see the horse was going very well,” Clement said.

Zivo, under Jose Lezcano, also was far back early and made a good run to finish second, likely earning his way to the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well.

“I’d love to take him out to the Classic. I think he fits,” Brown said. “I didn’t see anything today that would deter me from going out there.”