The Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational on September 29 at
Belmont Park is the centerpiece of Super Saturday, which features four
additional Grade 1s and the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap, each a "Win and You're In"
event for the Breeders' Cup on November 2 and 3 at Santa Anita Park.
According to Andrew Byrnes, stakes coordinator for The New York Racing Association, likely to head the field for the Jockey Club Gold Cup as he goes for his third straight graded stakes score is Fort Larned. Trained by Ian Wilkes, the four-year-old E Dubai colt exits a 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 4.
Looking to turn the tables on Fort Larned in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup will be Whitney runner-up and beaten favorite Ron the Greek and his stablemate, Flat Out, who finished third. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Ron the Greek has been first or second in all five 2012 starts, including Grade 1 victories in the Santa Anita Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap, while Flat Out seeks his first victory since a 2 1/2-length score in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, a three-time winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, will be represented by Hymn Book. The six-year-old Arch gelding, who has made six consecutive graded stakes appearances, won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in February at Gulfstream Park and was fourth in the Whitney most recently.
Three-year-olds have taken 38 of the 93 previous runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the most recent being champion Summer Bird in 2009. Looking to continue that success will be Fast Falcon, whom Hall of Famer Nick Zito saddled to finish a close-up third to the dead-heated duo of Golden Ticket and Alpha in the Grade 1 Travers, and the Ken McPeek-trained Atigun, who was fourth in the "Mid-Summer Derby."
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is one of the few races on the NYRA circuit to have eluded trainer Todd Pletcher, who will saddle the improving Grade 3 Philip Iselin winner San Pablo, who has hit the board in 11 of 12 career starts. Under consideration from Pletcher's barn as well is Repole Stable's 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty, most recently fifth behind winner To Honor and Serve in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga.
Ruler on Ice, the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner, is also questionable for the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Point of Entry will try for his third consecutive Grade 1 score and fifth victory in a row as he heads the list of probable starters for the Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.
Trained by McGaughey, who has posted nine graded stakes wins on the turf this year, the Dynaformer colt has dominated over a distance of ground on the grass this year. The four-year-old began his streak in April at Keeneland, winning a 1 1/2-mile allowance and earning his first stakes win in the Grade 2 Elkhorn, also at 1 1/2 miles. Back in New York, Point of Entry was a 3 1/2-length winner of the Grade 1, 1 3/8-mile Man o' War on July 14, and on August 18 added a four-length score in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at 1 1/2 miles.
Trainer Dale Romans has enjoyed a banner year as well, thanks in part to Little Mike, who will be making his first start at 1 1/2 miles. The five-year-old Spanish Steps gelding has hit the board in all five starts this year, including victories in the Grade 1 Arlington Million and the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
One of the Romans-trained duo of Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Dullahan and Grade 1 Secretariat runner-up Finnegans Wake is likely to contest the Joe Hirsch, according to Byrnes. The other will probably run in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on October 6 at Belmont.
Expected to join Point of Entry and Romans' horses in the starting gate for the Joe Hirsch are Center Divider, seventh in the Sword Dancer; Game Ball, who was eighth; Grade 1 winner Prince Will I Am, who came off a year layoff to finish sixth in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at the Spa; and Treasure Beach, sixth in the Arlington Million.
Trainer Chad Brown has the European-bred duo of Dream Peace and Zagora primed for the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational, a 1 1/4-mile race on the inner turf course for fillies and mares.
Previously trained by Robert Collet, Etreham Farm's Dream Peace won the 2011 Group 2 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville in France and has remained in the United States since finishing second in the Grade 1 Diana on July 28 at Saratoga. The Flower Bowl will be her first start for Brown.
Zagora, owned by Martin Schwartz, seeks her first Grade 1 win since taking the 2011 Diana. She is 4-0-1 in six starts this year, including a 1 1/2-length victory on August 25 in Saratoga's Grade 2 Ballston Spa in course-record time.
I'm a Dreamer landed the biggest win of her career in her most recent start when she held on to take the Grade 1 Beverly D. by a head on August 18 at Arlington Park. Primarily campaigned in Great Britain, the Andrew Stone color-bearer will make another trip across the Atlantic to compete in the Flower Bowl.
Nahrain, heroine of the 2011 Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp, will make her first start in the United States since she was second in last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs. The Darley homebred seeks her first win of 2012.
Probables also include Hit It Rich and Bizzy Caroline, first and second in the Grade 3 Glens Falls on September 3 at Saratoga, and New York-bred star Hessonite. City to City, Kissable, and Mystical Star are possible.
Champion Royal Delta and three-time Grade 1 winner It's Tricky are both listed as probable for the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational at 1 1/8 miles.
It would be the fifth meeting -- all in Grade 1 events -- between Royal Delta and It's Tricky. Royal Delta maintains a 2-to-1 edge in victories, winning last year's Alabama and Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, while It's Tricky captured the 2011 Coaching Club American Oaks. In their previous meeting, It's Tricky stumbled badly at the start, running well to finish third, while the odds-on Royal Delta finished second in the Personal Ensign at the Spa.
Also listed as probable for the Beldame is Go Unbridled, coming off a 6 1/2-length romp at odds of 8-1 in the Saratoga Dew for New York breds on August 27 at Saratoga.
Listed as questionable are All Due Respect, Cash for Clunkers and Maristar.
Poseidon's Warrior, who had a neck in front of Justin Phillip at the finish line in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on August 5 at Saratoga, will look to prove his 26-1 victory was no fluke as he joins the field of sprinters likely to run in the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational.
Probable to join those two for the six-furlong race are Sean Avery, the 2011 Vanderbilt winner who returned from a 13-month layoff to win the Affiliate on September 8 at Belmont; Affiliate runner-up Zero Rate Policy; Royal Currier, third as the beaten favorite in the Affiliate; and Little Drama, a half-brother to 2010 Sprint champion Big Drama who is making his Grade 1 debut.
Jersey Town, winner of 2010's Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap and third in the Grade 1 Forego last out; Hamazing Destiny, who was fourth in the Vanderbilt and then second in the Forego; and Trickmeister, who was fourth in the Woodward, are questionable.
Multiple Grade 1 winners Shackleford and To Honor and Serve highlight the likely contenders for the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Handicap, to be contested at a mile on the main track.
They come off vastly different efforts. Shackleford finished a lackluster eighth in the Vanderbilt. Using the race as a prep for the Forego, which he missed due to a cough, Shackleford drew the rail and never seemed to handle the muddy track.
To Honor and Serve comes off a gutsy victory in the Woodward, fending off a late bid from favorite Mucho Macho Man to win by a neck.
Also probable for the Kelso are 2011 Grade 1 Haskell winner Coil, listed stakes winner Golddigger's Boy and graded winner Tapizar.
Listed as questionable are Caixa Eletronica, Jersey Town, and Private Tale.