Albert the Great became Nick Zito's first Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner when the 3-year-old drew off through the stretch to win the $1 million race by six lengths Saturday at Belmont Park. Earlier in the day, Zito saddled his third consecutive Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner.
"What a day, an amazing day," Zito said "It's very special. I'd never won a Jockey Club Gold Cup before."
Albert the Great led through an opening quarter-mile run in :23.63, dropped a head behind Gander after a half-mile in :46.86, and drew away impressively when roused by jockey Jorge Chavez. Albert the Great completed the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.24 over a fast track and earned owner Tracy Farmer $600,000 for the win. Gander finished second, three lengths clear of Vision and Verse. Agol Lack was fourth, followed by Lemon Drop Kid, Behrens, and Skimming.
"I knew I made a mistake last time, and I told Nick (Zito) that," Chavez said. "I'm glad Nick gave me the chance to stay on him because I know this horse really well."
Odds-on favorite Lemon Drop Kid, who was seeking his fifth consecutive win, was bumped leaving the gate and never reached contention, finishing over nine lengths back, six lengths in front of Behrens.
Albert the Great made his racing debut in January at Gulfstream Park and earned his first win in April at Keeneland. That win was the first of four consecutive -- capped by a three-length triumph over More Than Ready in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) in July -- following the addition of blinkers. Albert the Great then finished last of seven in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), prompting the removal of the blinkers. Since then, he finished a game second in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and third in the Jerome Handicap (gr. II). Albert the Great (Go for Gin--Bright Feather, by Fappiano) was bred in Kentucky by Albert G. Clay, for whom he is named. The Gold Cup win is his first in a grade I stakes, and his fifth career win from 12 starts.
Albert the Great paid $13, $7.20 and $5 for the win and topped a $186 exacta. Gander returned $13 and $7.30. Vision and Verse was worth $10 to show. (Chart, Equibase)