The Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup drew a field of five and that means strategy will be the key to success even more so than in most races. Four of the five have credentials at the top level, including recent Grade 1 Woodward Stakes winner Preservationist. His most fearsome foe is likely to be Code of Honor, who won the Grade 1 Travers Stakes last month and who, like Tacitus, is a three year old facing older horses for the first time. Tacitus was three lengths behind Code of Honor in the Travers and earned his last win nearly six months ago in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes. Vino Rosso won the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May but was a well-beaten third in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes last month. Olympic Village tries stakes competition for the first time.
Preservationist has a strategic edge in this year's Jockey Club Gold Cup because none of the other four entrants has ever led at the first call in any of their 39 combined route races. Preservationist came from behind to win after being third and fourth in the early stages of the Woodward Stakes last month at Saratoga, but two races prior to that in the Suburban Stakes he led at the start and even though he gave up the lead briefly after a half-mile, he won that race in nearly wire-to-wire fashion. The Suburban was run at the same mile and one-quarter distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and at Belmont. Having earned 110 Equibase Speed Figures in the Suburban and in the Woodward and with an early speed advantage, Preservationist should be the one to catch and therefore the one to beat, in this race.
Code of Honor got on everyone's radar on the Road to the Derby trail in March with a sharp win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, earning a career-best 111 figure. He then did not move forward in either the Florida Derby (third) or Kentucky Derby (third then placed second). Taking two months off following the Derby, Code of Honor got back on track with a strong three length win in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont in July, although the 101 figure was low and the race was run at the distance of a mile around one-turn. Improving significantly seven weeks later, Code of Honor rallied from ninth to draw off and win the Travers Stakes at the distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, earning a 108 figure. With the likelihood for further improvement in his third start off the layoff as well as proven at the classic distance, the only question in my mind as to whether Code of Honor can win his second grade one race in a row is how easy a lead Preservationist may have in the early stages and how much gas that one will have left in the tank to hold off the late charge of Code of Honor.
Tacitus has earned 107, 103, 105 and 104 figures in his four races since winning the Wood Memorial with a 106 figure in April. He's a very good horse but does not appear to be improving compared to Code of Honor and does not appear fast enough compared to Preservationist. Vino Rosso won at the distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup when earning a field high 114 figure in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May but regressed to a 108 figure when no threat to the top two finishers in the Whitney Stakes last month. Olympic Village was claimed for $75,000 last month out of a seven furlong sprint following nine months off and so is running in a graded stakes for the first time while stretching out three-eighths of a mile in only his second start off a layoff. As such, he appears overmatched.
Code of Honor
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