The 99th running of the G1 $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup features a competitive field of 7 who will battle for 1-1/4 miles over the Belmont dirt course. This race is the last “win and you’re in” opportunity for entry into the Breeder’s Cup Classic. With several of the top older horses opting to train up to the Classic rather than race, the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup should offer a fine wagering opportunity with no prohibitive favorite in sight.
Belmont’s dirt course has been running fairly in terms of both speed and post position. Early speed, stalkers, as well as deep closers have all won their fair share of the 24 dirt routes, and all post positions have launched winners.
The pace of the race should be dictated by the #1, Diversify. This Richard Violette trainee has put up some consistent and classy early speed figures. Against lesser competition, Diversify has shown the ability to wire fields with relative ease, winning 6 of 9 starts. Diversify’s tactics this week should be no different. He will try to grab the lead and hold on as long as he can. This will be his first foray into the graded stakes ranks.
Following closely behind will be Pavel, Destin, and Rally Cry, all of which will be battling for that perfect stalking position. Each of these horses has the ability to battle Diversify for the lead, but I don’t think any of them will sacrifice their chances by entering into a speed duel with a horse that needs the front. They will, however, be close enough to the speed to ensure an honest pace.
Towards the rear we will find Highland Sky, Good Samaritan, and Keen Ice. Highland Sky has not put up the speed figures to compete with this field. Good Samaritan, from Bill Mott’s barn, has graded stakes experience and has shown the ability to close in the lane, even when chasing a modest pace.
9-5 morning line favorite Keen Ice will break from the outside #7 post with Jose Ortiz aboard. Keen Ice has been racing competitively against a veritable who’s who of stakes horses including Arrogate, Shaman Ghost, California Chrome, and most recently finishing 2nd behind Gun Runner in the G1 Whitney. Keen Ice has made a nice living, earning over $3.5 million, despite only winning 3 of 23 lifetime starts.
The horse I landed on this week is the #5, Rally Cry. Under the tutelage of Todd Pletcher and with John Velasquez up, Rally Cry has the classic stalking running style which will allow him to sit right behind Diversify. In his last, Rally Cry broke alertly, drifted 3 wide on the first turn and still managed a distant 2nd to Gun Runner in the G1 Woodward at Saratoga. There is no shame in finishing behind Gun Runner (just ask Keen Ice).
Rally Cry has shown a high cruising speed and the ability to run on in the lane. If he can run to his recent speed figures he should be able to win his way into the Breeder’s Cup Classic. Let’s hope we can get somewhere near the 6-1 morning line odds.