Stay Thirsty Dreams Big In Jockey Club Gold Cup
By New York Racing Association
ELMONT, N.Y. – Beginning with his runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes and continuing with his victories in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers, Stay Thirsty has put more and more distance between himself and his celebrated stablemate and peer, Uncle Mo .
On Super Saturday at Belmont Park, Stay Thirsty will face his biggest challenge to date when he takes on older horses for the first time in the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, the centerpiece of a “Super Saturday” card that includes six graded stakes worth $2.65 million. Also up for grabs in the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup is an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 5.
Along with the Grade 1 Beldame and the Grade 2 Kelso, the 93rd running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com from 4:30 - 6 p.m. EDT.
Stay Thirsty, who like Uncle Mo is owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, is the only 3-year-old in this year’s race and his connections are hoping he will join recent winners Summer Bird (2009), Curlin (2007) and Bernardini (2006) as the divisional champion at year’s end.
“The one thing he’s done is he’s made his own resume now,” said Pletcher of Stay Thirsty. “The Jim Dandy was certainly a big step in that direction, but when you come back and you put the Travers on top of that, I don’t think he has to be compared to anyone now. Now, you’re talking about a horse that’s won the Gotham, was a very, very good second in the Belmont and then has gone on to win the Jim Dandy and the Travers both impressively by lengths. He’s established himself right now as a 3-year-old leader.”
Stay Thirsty, whose victory in the 1 ¼-mile Travers makes him the only Jockey Club Gold Cup starter with a Grade 1 win in 2011, was listed as the 8-5 second choice on the morning line from post position 3, ahead of Greenwood Cup winner A. U. Miner, Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap winner Birdrun, 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, Grade 2 Suburban Handicap winner Flat Out, 2010 Florida Derby winner Ice Box, and Rodman, winner of the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap last December.
“It’s a pretty tough race and with horses like Flat Out in there, who has made a couple of big showings against older horses already this year that, you know, it’s a very, very competitive group,” said Pletcher, who will give a leg up to Javier Castellano for the race.
Flat Out, runner-up to Tizway in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational and to Havre de Grace in the Grade 1 Woodward, both at Saratoga, returns to the scene of his greatest triumph, a 6 ½-length romp in the Suburban on July 2 that earned him a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 113. The 5-year-old son of Flatter will be making his first start beyond 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, but trainer Charles “Scooter” Dickey doesn’t foresee any problem with the extra distance.
“He was still coming on at the end of the race against Havre de Grace, so the distance won’t be an issue with him,” said Dickey. “I think he’ll appreciate coming back to Belmont, too; he ran a nice race there last time, and I hope it turns out the same way.”
Flat Out, part of the favored 7-5 entry with Birdrun, will be ridden by Alex Solis from post position 6.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has entered two horses with an affinity for the track: Drosselmeyer, who is 2-2-0 from four starts, and the 5-year-old Birdrun, who is 3-3-0 from six starts at Belmont.
“Birdrun is kind of a very consistent, hard-knocking guy,” said Mott’s assistant, Leana Willaford of the son of Birdstone, who will be making his Grade 1 debut. “He also has the [Belmont Park] track record for 1 1/16 miles [1:39.38]. He and Drosselmeyer are both very similar in liking Belmont.”
Jose Lezcano rides Drosselmeyer, 6-1 from post position 4, while John Velazquez is aboard Birdrun.
The declaration of Tizway from the race opened the door for the front-running Rodman, most recently eighth after a troubled trip in the Whitney, to change gears from Saturday’s one-mile Kelso to the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
“It’s a small field for a lot bigger award,” said Mike Hushion, who trains Rodman for Barry K. Schwartz. “I think we’ll be on the lead, and a longshot, so maybe we won’t be taken too seriously. If he’s got 1 ¼ miles in him genetically, he’ll be fine. He’s fit enough, and he won at 1 3/16 miles [Queens County].”
Rajiv Maragh has the mount on Rodman, 8-1 on the morning line, from post position 2.
Rounding out the field are Ice Box, who most recently was sixth in the Woodward and who is seeking his first win since the 2010 Florida Derby, and A.U. Miner, making his first start since the July 16 Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing.