Bernardini once again effortlessly won a grade I race, galloping home over three opponents Saturday in Belmont Park's Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
"That was exactly what I was hoping for," said winning trainer Tom Albertrani. "I was hoping to see him run as easy as he did in the Jim Dandy. I've got a fresh horse for the Breeders' Cup now. He does things so easily, I don't know if anyone can give him the kind of race where he was to fight.
"He'll probably stay here until a few days before the race," Albertrani said of his plans prior to the Classic. "Depending upon what flights we can get out, maybe he'll leave on (Nov. 1). I think it will come down to Lava Man, Invasor, and us for Horse of the Year. We'll train as we always have and look forward to the next one. He showed up like he always does today."
The 3-year-old A.P. Indy
colt won his sixth straight race to set himself up as the probable favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. He earned $450,000 Saturday and has now banked $2,060,480.
He may have also secured more votes for champion 3-year-old over Barbaro and, should he win the Classic, would be the leading candidate for Horse of the Year.
The only question one might have is how Bernardini will run when challenged because he has won such races as the Gold Cup, Travers (gr. I), and Preakness (gr. I) without being seriously pushed.
Javier Castellano put Bernardini off pacesetter Wanderin Boy, who set soft fractions of 25.03; :48.13, 1:11.81, and made a move as they came out of the turn, just floating by and cruising home under a hand ride.
Bernardini crossed under the wire in the 1 ¼-mile race in 2:01.02 with Castellano never seriously asking him to run. Wanderin Boy finished second, Andromeda's Hero third, and Dylan Thomas - who shipped from Europe - was last the entire trip in his first start on dirt and in the United States.
The JCGC was Bernardini's first try against older horses, and he responded with maybe his best effort yet. Bernardini carried 122 pounds, four less than his older rivals.
"I had so much horse today," Castellano said. "I never asked him. It looked pretty easy. I liked the way he did it today. He settled down perfectly behind the speed horse. I wanted him to settle down today.
"He's a special horse, and that kind of a horse is hard to find. He's my spoiled baby."
Bernardini is owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley, which bred him in Kentucky. He paid $2.30 and $2.10 and Wanderin Boy, ridden by Edgar Prado, returned $3.50.
Nick Zito trained both the second- and third-place finishers.
"(Bernardini) has superstar credentials," Zito said. "If he wins the Breeders' Cup, he'll certainly solidify that. I'm really happy about our horses, no question. It's the first time I almost clapped for a horse that beat me. That was pretty cool."