Jockey Club Gold Cup Runners Tighten Screws
Several New York-based contenders for the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) turned in their final works Sept. 20-21.
At Belmont Park, trainer Todd Pletcher worked GoldMark Farm's Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner Cross Traffic and Dogwood Stable's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Palace Malice on the training track, while Chad Brown breezed John D. Gunther's homebred Last Gunfighter over the main track. Upstate, Kiaran McLaughlin sent Godolphin Racing's Woodward Stakes (gr. I) winner Alpha through his final paces over the Oklahoma oval at Saratoga Race Course.
"I thought Palace Malice's was more of the standard we've seen from him," Pletcher said. "It was a good steady breeze with a very strong gallop out. He went willingly on his own, in hand, and we were very, very pleased with it. He looked well this morning and judging by his race in the Belmont, he likes it here.
"I thought Cross Traffic and Graydar worked very well," he added. "It's the third consecutive breeze they've had together. It served them both well. In company, they stay more focused without overdoing it. We wanted to make sure we got a good solid work into both of them. One of them is coming off a significant layoff and the other hasn't run since the Whitney, and I think we got what we were looking for."
Graydar, who runs for Twin Creeks Racing Stables, has not started since a March 30 victory in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. I), after which he was sidelined with an ankle chip.
On the main track at Belmont, John D. Gunther's Last Gunfighter breezed five furlongs in 1:02.24. He will make his grade I debut on Saturday in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, Brown said. Last Gunfighter has won seven of his past eight starts, including the Aug. 18 Philip H. Iselin (gr. III) at Monmouth Park.
"He's been a very consistent horse," said Brown. "He's going to need to come with his career-best race. He's not grade I tested, but he's been a very consistent horse at the level he's been running. He's going to have to take a big step forward, I think."
Alpha completed his preparations sept. 20 for the Gold Cup with a five-furlong breeze in 1:02.90 over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.
"He worked on his own, and will ship down Wednesday morning," reported McLaughlin. "All is well, other than we don't have a jockey yet."
The Woodward was Alpha's second grade I triumph, having dead-heated to win last year's Travers.
"The Woodward was a huge win for the horse, the trainer, the owner, and everyone," said McLaughlin.
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