The Jockey Club Gold Cup is unquestionably the main attraction of this year's Super Saturday card at Belmont Park, and with good reason. The eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner has used the Jockey Club Gold Cup as his final prep in each of the last three years. Moreover, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has produced the last four Breeders' Cup Classic winners if one looks at only those years when the Classic was run on a dirt surface.
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Sue Kawczynski
What makes the Jockey Club Gold Cup all the more intriguing is that it provides us with our first true look at this year's top-class three-year-olds stepping up and tackling top-class older competition. Classic winners Orb and Palace Malice both step up and take on their elders for the first time. Meanwhile, course specialist Flat Out attempts to win his third consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cup, an achievement that hasn't been seen since the days of the legendary gelding Kelso a half century ago. The flashy four-year-old Cross Traffic has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom despite having only five career starts under his belt. If he is able to sweep the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic, he'll have a compelling case for Horse of the Year, no matter what Wise Dan does in his remaining grass races. Yes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup is loaded with storylines and leads an exciting Super Saturday card. However, some of the undercard races also provide high drama from a racing fan's standpoint. That is certainly the case in the Beldame, where two-time Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Royal Delta faces off against the presumptive champion three-year-old filly, Princess of Sylmar, in a dramatic confrontation pitting the best mare in the land against the best filly in the land at a distance that perfectly suits them both.
We love top-class racing. We love legendary races loaded with storylines like the one we have in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. And we certainly love dramatic confrontations like the one we'll see in the Beldame. However, let's try not to distract ourselves with all that excitement. The task at hand is to find our best wagering opportunity of the Super Saturday sequence.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is certainly an excellent betting race, but let's focus our attention on two others, starting with the Kelso Handicap. [TimeformUS PPs] Although the expectations are that Graydar will go off a heavy favorite in the Kelso Handicap, we are concerned by the 182-day layoff, coupled with the fact that Todd Pletcher has a trainer rating of just 57 in non-age-restricted three-year-old and up stakes races at Belmont Park. Graydar delivered the worst performance of his entire life under similar circumstances over this track and distance last year. It's unrealistic to expect him to recapture his good winter form in this prep race, and this race is run under handicap conditions, forcing him to concede weight to all of his rivals.
I look forward to taking a shot and tossing Graydar out of the exacta and trifecta. The two horses I'm most interested in are Souper Speedy and Praetereo. The horse I'm all excited about in the Joe Hirsch is Slumber. He was a tremendously impressive winner of a good allowance race at Saratoga while making his first start off of a 378-day layoff. He was assigned a very strong 113 speed figure and the visual impression he left behind was tremendous. I think Slumber is a very serious horse and I expect him to benefit from the fast pace in front of him and score an upset victory in the Joe Hirsch.
For exotic wagering purposes, I believe it is as simple as 1, 2, 3. The 1A Boisterous has been victimized by harsh weight concessions in back to back handicap races. He might have lost a step or two, but he also projects a perfect trip behind the hot pace today and should have every opportunity to run his best possible race. Owner Ken Ramsey also sends out a strong entry that includes two contenders and a rabbit. They must be used underneath in the exotics. Nutello also has to be an exotic use, as this French import goes first-time lasix for trainer H. Graham Motion, who has a 98 trainer rating in that category.
This year's Super Saturday card provides a whole lot of something for everyone, and it will be a spectacular day of racing and wagering, to be sure.