West coast invader Borrego roared to the lead leaving the second turn and drew off to an impressive victory in the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) that highlighted Saturday's Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Preview Day at Belmont Park.
The Gold Cup featured a 3-2 favored entry from trainer Todd Pletcher, with Bishop Court Hill expected to be on the early lead in an effort to set up a fast pace and a come-from-behind move for stablemate Flower Alley.
That pace scenario did not transpire, however, as Bishop Court Hill and Flower Alley were first and second in the early going, with a half-mile completed in :46 3/5. Another West coast horse, Lava Man, was settled into third early, with Borrego in mid-pack.
When the field moved into the far turn, jockey Garrett Gomez unleashed Borrego and he responded with a breathtaking, three-wide move and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths under a hand ride. Suave finished a distant second, and Sun King was third.
Borrego, second to Lava Man in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) before winning the $1-million Pacific Classic (gr. I) previous to Saturday's race, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02 4/5 and returned $10.60, $5 and $4.20. Suave was worth $11.80 and $9.90, with Sun King paying $6.40. Flower Alley finished fourth, with Bishop Court Hill last in the eight-horse field.
Trainer Beau Greely said Borrego, a son of El Prado
who has won five of 19 starts, will now move on to the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.
"He's a very honest horse," Greely said. "Garrett did a great job with him. He did it like a nice horse today. I think he has definitely developed. That being said, we have the next level to step up to now. This was a very solid grade I. I never looked at the Breeders' Cup until right now. He's going to tell me in the morning. Today, I am delighted. I like to think I have the horse to beat...there are a lot of great horses out there, but Borrego has won over the track. He is a very easy horse to train and he makes me look good. I thought he would win today, but I knew we had serious horses running in this race. He excels at a mile and a quarter. That was a lot of fun. He'll stay here for the Breeders' Cup (Classic - Powered by Dodge)."
"Flower Alley was just a little too fresh," Pletcher said of the unexpected way the race unfolded. "I know everyone is going to say that the `rabbit' (Bishop Court Hill) is why he got beat. Flower Alley was just too rank. It had nothing to do with the `rabbit'. He was either going to be locked up with Lava man on the outside or Bishop Court Hill on the inside. It really didn't, in my eyes, have anything to do with the `rabbit'. I think we will try again. He ran a hell of a lot better than the other two that were up there with him."
Borrego was bred in Kentucky by a partnership consisting of trainer Greely, Jon S. Kelly, Dr. Sam Bradley, and Brad Scott. He races in the names of Greely, Jon S. and Sarah Kelly, Scott, Raleigh Ralls, and Dennis Foster.
Raised at the Greely family's Wintergreen Farm near Midway, Ky. Borrego went unsold twice at public auction. Consigned by John J. Greely III to the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale, he reserve was not met at $20,000. He was subsequently bought back for $75,000 when consigned by Eddie Woods, agent, at the 2003 Keeneland 2-year-olds in training sale.