In last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, Tonalist rallied from ninth to score a 1 3/4-length victory.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

In last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, Tonalist rallied from ninth to score a 1 3/4-length victory.
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Coglianese Photos/David Alcosser

Tonalist Aims for Jockey Club Gold Cup Repeat

Tonalist earned clear victory in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup.

While Tonalist  enters the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 3 on—by his standards—a downward trend, the Tapit  colt will have enough to his liking in the 1 1/4-mile race at Belmont Park to make him a favorite to repeat his victory of a season ago.

In last year's Gold Cup, Tonalist rallied from ninth to score a 1 3/4-length victory over Zivo  to improve to 3-for-3 at Belmont Park following victories earlier in the year in the Belmont (gr. I) and Peter Pan (gr. II) stakes.

NOVAK: Tonalist Captures Jockey Club Gold Cup

Robert Evans' Tonalist added a fourth straight victory at Belmont when he opened his 4-year-old season with a victory in this year's Westchester Stakes (gr. III). While he enters Saturday's race off three straight losses, including two at Belmont, Tonalist placed in each of those efforts, all grade I or grade II stakes.

He finished second in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) when Honor Code , who is entered in Saturday's Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont, rallied to victory. Tonalist finished two lengths in front of third-place Private Zone that day. Tonalist then finished second in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont, when Effinex edged him by a head.

Effinex also is among the six horses entered in the Gold Cup, but after carrying 117 pounds in the Suburbansix fewer than Tonalistboth will carry 126 on Saturday.

Tonalist enters Saturday's race off a bit of a layoff, as he has not started since finishing third to Honor Code and Liam's Map  in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 8 at Saratoga Race Course, his 11th placing in 13 career starts. He has worked four times in September for trainer Christophe Clement, earning back-to-back bullets in his two most recent moves, both at five furlongs.

"I'm delighted with the horse. I think he's doing great," Clement said. "He's strong. He loves it here. He's been eating very well. He has been training very willingly and I'm happy with him."

Installed as the 6-5 favorite with Hall of Famer John Velazquez slated to ride, Tonalist drew the outermost post in the field of six.

"Six out of six is good," Clement said of the draw. "Basically, that way Johnny can do whatever he wants. It'll be more up to Johnny than to me but I think it's OK. It'll be up to Johnny to do what he wants."

Half the field boasts previous grade I victories, as Tonalist will be challenged by this year's Donn Handicap (gr. I) winner Constitution , who also won last year's Besilu Florida Derby (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher; and last year's Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Wicked Strong .

WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Constitution prepped for Saturday's race with a fifth-place finish in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT), the first career turf start for the lightly raced son of Tapit.

Constitution has won four of seven career starts, including four of six efforts on dirt. In his only previous Belmont start, Constitution finished fourth in a 2014 allowance/optional claiming race won by Easter Gift.

Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Wicked Strong enters off a third-place finish in the in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga. In a Sept. 29 conference call, Jerkens confessed that he doesn't have all of the answers in the son of Hard Spun 's eight-race losing streak, which includes last year's Gold Cup, when he clipped heels with Moreno and lost rider Rajiv Maragh, but he feels like the colt is coming around.

Jerkens also trains Tri-Bone Stables' Effinex, who finished fourth in the Woodward following his Suburban win.

Pletcher also will send out Coach Inge, who won this year's Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (gr. II) and enters off a second to stablemate Liam's Map in the Woodward.

Rounding out the field is O'zbekiston Racing's Looks to Spare, a former claimer who earned his first stakes win in his previous start, taking the West Virginia Governor's Stakes at 74-1 odds.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In," race to the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

Entries: Jockey Club Gold Cup S. (G1)

Belmont Park, Saturday, October 03, 2015, Race 10

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/4m
  • Dirt
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:28 PM (local)
11Wicked Strong (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoel Rosario126James A. Jerkens-
22Coach Inge (KY)Irad Ortiz, Jr.126Todd A. Pletcher-
33Constitution (KY)Javier Castellano126Todd A. Pletcher-
44Effinex (NY)Junior Alvarado126James A. Jerkens-
55Looks to Spare (IL)Deshawn L. Parker126Gregory DiPrima-
66Tonalist (KY)John R. Velazquez126Christophe Clement-