Two weeks ago, Santa Anita put on a stakes-packed weekend card that sent seven horses to various Breeders’ Cup races. This weekend, Belmont Park captures the spotlight, featuring five graded stakes races on Saturday, including four Grade 1s.
Among Belmont Park’s 11 Saturday races are four Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Events, punching tickets to the two-day racing extravaganza at Keeneland on Nov. 6-7. There’s a fifth Breeders’ Cup Challenge Event on Sunday.
The marquee race is the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, which sends its winner to the Breeders’ Cup’s marquee event – the $6 million Classic. Leading that 1 ¼-mile parade are 3-year-olds Mystic Guide and Happy Saver, and 4-year-old Tacitus.
Both Mystic Guide and Happy Saver come off last-out victories. Mystic Guide won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on Saratoga’s closing weekend last month and Happy Saver prevailed in the Federico Tesio at Laurel Park last month. Tacitus, meanwhile, finished second in the Grade 1 Woodward on Kentucky Derby day at Saratoga. He won the Grade 2 Suburban at Saratoga, breaking a lengthy winless streak.
Running at Belmont
The chart below lists some of the key races on this weekend’s card.
|Jockey Club Gold Cup||Saturday, Oct. 10||1 1/4 miles||Dirt||1|
|Champagne||Saturday, Oct. 10||1 mile||Dirt||1|
|Flower Bowl Invitational||Saturday, Oct. 10||1 1/4 miles||Turf||1|
|Frizette||Saturday, Oct. 10||1 mile||Dirt||1|
|Futurity||Sunday, Oct. 11||6 furlongs||Turf||3|
Who Will Pop the Champagne This Year?
Speaking of the Derby, the Grade 1 Champagne often reveals Derby contenders for the following year. The mile race provides a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where unbeaten Jackie’s Warrior currently sits as the favorite. He’s expected to be the heavy favorite here, coming off his blowout win in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.
Two others to watch are Jackie’s Warrior’s stablemate, Midnight Bourbon, who finished second in the Grade 3 Iroquois on the Derby undercard. Then, there’s Reinvestment Risk, who finished second to Jackie’s Warrior in the Hopeful. Both he and Midnight Bourbon have wins under their juvenile saddles.
This is the race Belmont and Travers champion Tiz the Law won last year for his first Grade 1 victory.
The sophomore and older females have their turn with the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational, which sends 3-year-olds and up 1 ¼ testing miles on Belmont’s inner turf course. Your defending champion is Sistercharlie, who hasn’t won in three tries since winning last year’s Flower Bowl Invitational.
Chad Brown Arranges the Flower Bowl Field
Should the Chad Brown-trained Sistercharlie break her three-race, third-place streak, she’ll punch her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Brown pushes his star mare with stablemates Cambier Parc and Nay Lady Nay. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey counters with Civil Union, who comes in riding a three-race winning streak.
Capping Belmont’s Grade 1 slate is the Frizette, which sends 2-year-old fillies one mile in search of a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Your overpowering favorite is Vequist, the daughter of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2016 Kentucky Derby champion, Nyquist. Last time out, on Saratoga’s closing weekend, Vequist dismantled her foes by 9 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes.
Keep an eye on two others. First, there’s Cantata, the $950,000 2019 Keeneland September Sale purchase who won a 6 ½-furlong maiden at Saratoga by 10 ¼ lengths. The second is the other graded stakes winner in the field. That is Dayoutoftheoffice, who captured the Grade 3 Schuylerville by six lengths at Saratoga in July.
Futurity Winner’s Roll Is More than Grade 3 Quality
The other Breeders’ Cup challenge event is Sunday’s Grade 3 Futurity, which sends its winner of the six-furlong sprint to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Matters are wide open in a race boasting winners such as Citation, Native Dancer, Bold Ruler, Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Affirmed, and Swale. Wesley Ward’s duo of Royal Approval and After Five should contend, as should Christophe Clement’s Momos, and Mark Casse’s Bright Devil.