By Shawn Rychling
It’s hard to fathom, but as the Saratoga meet has expanded over the last 15 years or so – from 24 days to 30, and then 36 and finally 40 – the Spa now features more racing days than the Belmont Fall Championship Meet.
So when we head back south from the foothills of the Adirondacks back to New York City the wind is gone from our sails after a great Saratoga summer and we brace for a long fall and winter of racing.
But then, blink, and you miss the Belmont fall meet. This year, it’s only 36 days and on this weekend, Super Saturday has arrived! It’s the climactic moment of the meet with the featured 99th renewal of the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at a mile-and-a-quarter for older horses; the Grade-I Champagne for 2-year-olds, and the Grade-III Hill Prince for turf runners.
NYRA has an excellent 11-race card slated with only claiming event on the docket.
The featured Jockey Club goes off as race 10 and there is plenty of storylines in this race topped by the New York-bred Diversify breaking from the rail. This Richard Violette trainee in 6 for 9 in his career, but has only one win in an unrestricted field and has not started, let alone won, a graded-stakes race. That said, this guy destroyed a stakes field last time by 11 lengths, earning a 108 speed figure so it will be interesting to see how this horse does jumping into the deep end of the pool.
Destin breaks from post 6 and this one is trying to regain the form he showed in the Triple Crown series and 3-year-old division last year. He won his last start by a nose which was only his second race since last August when he was 9th in the Travers.
The irrepressible Keen Ice has the 7 hole and he is 9-5 in the morning line. All he’s done in his career is beat American Pharoah and consistently post 100-plus speed figures. He is also the only horse in this field to win at 1 ¼ miles. This race looks wide open as we also have Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan entered and well as the lightly-raced and talented Pavel.
The Champagne is a wide-open 12-horse field of 2-year-olds, including three maidens. Horse racing is a much different world than it used to be.
One other horse worth mentioning is entered in the 11th and final race. Red Knight is a 3-year-old New York-bred owned by Trinity farm and trained by Bill Mott. If you get a chance, watch his first two races as he showed some incredible toughness for a young horse under some adverse conditions. He was second in his debut in an off-the-turf race before winning his second start rallying late on the grass passing several rivals. Trinity is the stable of Macagone another NY-bred turfer that has carved out a very nice career for himself. Based on his first two races, Red Knight looks better and more versatile.
Enjoy Super Saturday at Belmont and out the NY Hot List picks and analysis on the MyWinners site by clicking here. Good luck!