With some key defections in the field, popular geldings Evening Attire and Funny Cide, the first two finishers in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (gr. II), emerge as top contenders Saturday in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).A field of seven was entered for the 86th running of the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. The race is the 10th race on an 11-race card that includes three other grade I events. The 6-year-old Evening Attire and the 4-year-old Funny Cide have split four meetings throughout their careers. Evening Attire won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup in their last clash Aug. 22.Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I), will be making his ninth start of the year Saturday. Winless in his last six grade I tries, the New York-bred gelding has been a mark of consistency nonetheless. Speed figures and sheet numbers have the son of Distorted Humor running about the same number each time, something that trainer Barclay Tagg is happy about."We can't be doing too much wrong if he's that consistent," Tagg said. "Evening Attire jumped up and ran the race of his life last time. I'd rather see consistent races than horses that run huge one day and poorly the next. If you could run that way every time, you're going to win some important races, I would think."Tagg hopes Funny Cide will finally be rewarded for that consistency.
"It's been a tough year for him because he's gotten beat most of the time," Tagg said.
Funny Cide, who worked a half-mile Thursday morning in :47 breezing, suffered a pair of tough losses earlier in the year. In the Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II), the valiant gelding missed by a head to Offlee Wild. One start later in the Suburban Handicap (gr. I), Funny Cide was collared late by Peace Rules and Newfoundland.Jose Santos will be back aboard Funny Cide after missing the Saratoga Breeders' Cup while recovering from an arm injury. Funny Cide and Santos figure to be tracking the pace of Love of Money.Seven-time stakes winner Evening Attire, owned by Joseph and Mary Grant and retired Hall of Fame trainer Tommy "T.J." Kelly, won the biggest race of his 35-race career taking the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup, his lone victory in nine tries at Belmont. Trainer Pat Kelly, T.J's son, was considering shipping his charge to Chicago for the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), but elected to stay at Belmont Park even before the defections of Peace Rules, Seattle Fitz and Sarava.The Saratoga Breeders' Cup was Evening Attire's first win of 2004. He has run second four times in seven starts this year."To me, he's been running fine, he's just had some strange trips," Kelly said of the gelding's 2004 campaign. "I guess on the numbers (the Saratoga Breeders' Cup) was his best race, but he's been running well all year."Evening Attire has been a godsend for the Kellys and Grants. He helped keep the morale at Pat Kelly's barn high after Kelly and longtime client Live Oak Plantation parted ways."He's carried us along," Kelly said at his barn. "If it weren't for him, you'd probably never know I was back here."Jay Em Ess Stable's Love of Money is the least experienced member of the field. The 3-year-old Not For Love colt won two of his first three races in New York before wiring the field in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) at 12-1. He only made his career debut June 12 for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr..With the announced retirement of Peace Rules earlier this week, Dutrow scrapped plans to send Love of Money to the Indiana Derby (gr. II), thinking he would be the main speed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup."It looks like he's going to be on the lead," Dutrow confirmed. "I'm not going to tell the jockey to take him back. He should leave early on, but he relaxes nicely and doesn't need the lead. He's sat off a horse a couple of times and he's fought for the lead with a horse. He seems very comfortable all the time. He doesn't care about anything."Robby Albarado, who rode Love of Money for the first time in the Pennsylvania Derby, will be back aboard for the Gold Cup.Another three-year-old running in a stakes race against older horses for the first time is Robert LaPenta's The Cliff's Edge, runner-up to stablemate Birdstone in the Travers (gr. I)."You never know how they'll do going against older horses for the first time, but I think he'll do well," trainer Nick Zito said. "He does well in just about every race he runs in. He's a very consistent horse and he's a real warrior. His greatest quality is his consistency."The Cliff's Edge, who rallies from well off the pace, will get a rider change for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens has been named to ride the Gulch colt who has finished second in his last three starts, but may have to serve a suspension handed down by Italian stewards. Stevens has said he would fight the stewards' decision.Love of Money and The Cliff's Edge each carry 122 pounds and receive a four-pound weight break against the older competitors.$1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), 3 & up, 1 1/4 miles
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY
1. The Cliff's Edge, Nick Zito, Gary Stevens
2. Love of Money, Richard Dutrow Jr., Robby Albarado
3. Domestic Dispute, Patrick Gallagher, John Velazquez
4. Evening Attire, Pat Kelly, Cornelio Velasquez
5. Bowman's Band, H. Allen Jerkens, Ramon Dominguez
6. Newfoundland, Todd Pletcher, Edgar Prado
7. Funny Cide, Barclay Tagg, Jose Santos