Preston Stables’ Flat Out and Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty are the two standouts in the 1 1/4-mile JCGC, which is the last of five grade I races on Belmont’s all-star program. The winner will get an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
Along with the Beldame (gr. I) and the Kelso (gr. II), the JCGC will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com from 4:30-6 p.m. EDT.
Tizway, who would have been the favorite in the JCGC, missed a few days of training last week due to a fever and was not entered.
Flat Out emerged as a major player in the handicap division when he romped by 6 1/2 lengths in the July 2 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont for his first graded stakes victory. He was beaten three lengths by Tizway in the Aug. 6 Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and 1 1/4 lengths by Havre de Grace in the Sept. 3 Woodward (gr. I)—both runner-up efforts at Saratoga.
The 5-year-old horse has worked once since the Woodward for trainer Scooter Dickey, firing a bullet five-furlong move in :58 3/5 at Monmouth Park on Sept. 16. He will be ridden by Alex Solis once again.
"He was still coming on at the end of the race against Havre de Grace, so the distance won’t be an issue with him,” said Dickey. “I think he’ll appreciate coming back to Belmont, too; he ran a nice race there last time, and I hope it turns out the same way.”
Bred in Florida by Nikolaus Bock, Flat Out has produced a 4-3-0 record from 11 lifetime starts.
The only 3-year-old in the field and facing older horses for the first time, Stay Thirsty (8-5) has emerged as the division leader after two impressive wins at Saratoga. The son of Bernardini scored by four lengths in the July 30 Jim Dandy (gr. II) and then secured his first grade I triumph in a convincing Travers Stakes (gr. I) showing on Aug. 27.
Stay Thirsty has run second in both starts at Belmont—in his debut last summer and in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in June over a muddy track when beaten less than a length. The Todd Pletcher trainee has worked twice at Belmont since the Travers, including a quick four-furlong breeze in :47 on Sept. 25.
Javier Castellano will ride Stay Thirsty, who will get a four-pound pound weight break and carry 122 pounds.
“It’s a pretty tough race and with horses like Flat Out in there, who has made a couple of big showings against older horses already this year, you know it’s a very, very competitive group,” said Pletcher.
Though the JCGC offers the winner a spot in the BC Classic, for a trio of starters—A. U. Miner, Birdrun, and Drosselmeyer—the race is more likely a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (gr. II).
Don Benge’s A. U. Miner is coming off a decisive 3 1/2-length win in the July 16 Greenwood Cup—the second consecutive year he won that 1 1/2-mile race at Parx. It was only the second start of 2011 for the 6-year-old son of Mineshaft, who did not make his season debut until July.
Based at Churchill Downs for Clark Hanna, A. U. Miner finished third in last year’s BC Marathon, beaten only a length.
Bill Mott, who won the JCGC back in 1995 with Cigar, will send out Birdrun for Preston Stables and Drosselmeyer for WinStar Farm. Birdrun was second to A. U. Miner in the Greenwood Cup, one start after wiring the field in the June 10 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II)—both at 1 1/2 miles. He will run as a coupled entry with Flat Out as the 7-5 morning-line favorites.
“Birdrun is kind of a very consistent, hard-knocking guy,” said Mott’s assistant Leana Willaford. “He also has the (Belmont) track record for 1 1/16 miles (1:39.38). He and Drosselmeyer are both very similar in liking Belmont.”
Drosselmeyer had his career-defining win in the 2010 Belmont Stakes and bagged the One Count Stakes at Belmont for his only victory in five starts this season. The son of Distorted Humor enters off a failed seventh-place effort in the Aug. 13 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) in his first try on turf since early in his career.
Also in the field is Robert La Penta's Ice Box and Barry Schwatz’ Rodman, the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) runner-up who was eighth in the Whitney last out.
$750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I, Race 10, 5:46 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Ice Box (KY), C S Nakatani, 126, N P Zito, 12-1
2. Rodman (KY), R Maragh, 126, M E Hushion, 8-1
3. Stay Thirsty (KY), J Castellano, 122, T A Pletcher, 8-5
4. Drosselmeyer (KY), J Lezcano, 126, W I Mott, 6-1
5. A. U. Miner (KY), C H Borel, 126, C Hanna, 10-1
6. Flat Out (FL), A O Solis, 126, C L Dickey, 7-5
7. Birdrun (FL), J R Velazquez, 126, W I Mott, 7-5