Wet Track Probable for Jockey Club Gold Cup

The biggest question surrounding the weekend's races is the weather. Rain was falling Thursday when entries were taken for Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont, and more rain is forecast for Friday.

A field of eight was drawn for the 10-furlong race including Harlan's Holiday, who also was entered for the Pegasus (gr. II) at the Meadowlands Friday night. Trainer Todd Pletcher has indicated he would probably scratch from the Pegasus in favor of the Gold Cup in the event of a sloppy track.

Select Stable's Repent has run well in both starts over a wet track, most recently beaten just one-half length off a four-month layoff by Medaglia d'Oro in the grade I Travers.

Already this year, 3-year-olds have shown they can run with and beat some of the better older horses. Came Home proved that in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup result should tell whether or not 3-year-olds will be "live" in the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

"If [Repent] wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup, everyone will say it's a very good crop of 3-year-olds," trainer Ken McPeek said. "You don't ever know how good the 3-year-olds are until the Breeders' Cup is run."

Repent missed the Triple Crown when an ankle chip was discovered after his second-place finish to eventual Kentucky Derby/Preakness (gr. I) winner War Emblem in the Illinois Derby (gr. II).

A son of Louis Quatorze, Repent got his game back and McPeek had him right going into the Travers.

"You can't dance all the dances," McPeek said. "If I raced him in April, May, June, July and August, how much could I expect to have left? Now, I've got a nice, fresh horse who is doing good."

"The weather might force me to run him here or fall back on the Meadowlands Cup (Oct. 4th)," Pletcher said of Harlan's Holiday, who previously was trained by McPeek. "As 3-year-olds mature, you'd like to see them get bigger and stronger and he's done all that. I think the Pennsylvania Derby will move him forward."

Nothing Flat and Puzzlement, two other 3-year-olds in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, have flashed signs of ability, but will need to make big jumps forward to get the winner's share. Both their trainers have tasted Jockey Club Gold Cup glory recently: Nick Zito, trainer of Nothing Flat, won the race in 2000 with Albert the Great. Puzzlement will run with blinkers on for his trainer, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, a three-time Gold Cup winning trainer who scored a big upset in 1998 as Wagon Limit conquered on a sloppy track at 34-1.

There cannot be a $1 million race without at least one horse from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Back-to-back Woodward winner Lido Palace will join Milwaukee Brew in the starting gate. Lido Palace breezed three furlongs on Belmont's fast main track Thursday morning in :37 3/5; Medaglia d'Oro, incidentally, stayed sharp with a six- furlong bullet of 1:13 3/5, handily, before the rain hit.

After winning the Woodward last year, Lido Palace did not run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. His effort in this year's race will determine his status for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Bred in Chile, Lido Palace can only make the Classic if his owner, Amerman Racing Stables, puts up an $800,000 supplemental fee, $300,000 more than the 5-year-old has earned this year.

"We have to see how he runs in the Jockey Club Gold Cup before we decide about the Breeders' Cup," Frankel said. "He'd probably have to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup to get into the Breeders' Cup."

Milwaukee Brew will make his first New York start since April 2001 when he was third in the Westchester Handicap. This year has been altogether different for Milwaukee Brew, most notably his switch to Frankel's barn.

Winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Californian earlier in the year, Milwaukee Brew was third in his last two starts, the Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. The son of Wild Again had fast paces to run at in California, but may not get the same scenario in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"He can lay close to a slow pace," Frankel said. "In the Californian, he was up close and won. Circumstances got him beat in the Pacific Classic. It's such a small track. I think he'll like the big turns here."

The field, in post order:

Harlan's Holiday, 122, John Velazquez
Puzzlement, 122, Jean-Luc Samyn
Abreeze, 126 , Richard Migliore
Milwaukee Brew, 126, Kent Desormeaux
Evening Attire, 126, Shaun Bridgmohan
Repent, 122, Edgar Prado
Nothing Flat, 122, Jose Santos
Lido Palace, 126, Jorge Chavez