With the running of the $1 million dollar Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes on Saturday, the 1 1/4 mile Grade 1 will make its first appearance at Saratoga Race Course.
All of the field with the exception of last year’s Winner HAPPY SAVER will be trying to Win their first Grade 1 race, along with a win and you’re in spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 6th at Del Mar.
Here is a look at the field for tomorrows JCGC along with Morning Line odds. The race is listed as the last contest on a card of twelve with a scheduled Post Time of 6:45.
1. FORZA DI ORO [ML 5-2] Trainer: Bill Mott. Jockey: Junior Alvarado. He has Won his last three races going back to an Allowance at Belmont Park in October, which was followed by a stalking Victory in the Discovery (G3) at Aqueduct in November. He will need to run back to the effort in the Discovery to have a chance in his first Grade 1 appearance. Mott has Won the JCGC three times including in 1995 with the Hall of Famer CIGAR.
2. MAX PLAYER [ML 5-2] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Since breaking his Maiden at Parx at the end of 2019, MAX PLAYER has only run in Graded Stakes. Of note, he was 3rd in the shortened 2020-version of the Belmont Stakes (G1) and in the Travers (G1), where both times TIZ THE LAW was the Winner. He has no issues with muddy conditions as he Won the Suburban (G2) at Belmont Park in the slop .
3. CHESS CHIEF [ML 12-1] Trainer: Dallas Stewart. Jockey: Luis Saez. He was the Winner of the New Orleans Handicap (G2) in March followed by a 3rd in the Alysheba (G3) at Churchill Downs. Most recently, Stewart tried him on the turf at Colonial Downs against fellow Virginia-breds and CHESSS CHIEF ran 4th as the odds-on favorite. His record in 10 Graded Stakes is: 1-2-3 with his only start in a Grade 1 coming in the 2019 Travers where he finished 8th.
4. HAPPY SAVER [ML 8-5] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. He will try to Win the JCGC again this year after getting last year’s Win as a 3-year-old. HAPPY SAVER Won the first four races of his career last year, came back to start 2021 with an Allowance score at Belmont, and then tasted defeat for the first time on a sloppy track in the Suburban (G2). He is the only Grade 1 Winner in this field. Last year, HAPPY SAVER gave Pletcher his first Victory in the JCGC.
5. NIGHT OPS [ML 6-1] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Manny Franco. He is the leading money Winner in this field with six career Victories. This 5-year-old was 2nd in his last four starts, which includes the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga behind ART COLLECTOR, who went on to Win the Charles Town Classic. His most recent Victory was in the 2020 Cornhusker (G3), but in his last 10 starts only once did he miss a top 3 finish.
6. FOREWARNED [ML 20-1] Trainer: Uriah St. Lewis. Jockey: Sonny Leon. All three of this Ohio-bred’s Stakes Victories were at Ohio tracks including his last Win, which was October of 2020, in the Ohio Endurance at Mahoning Valley going ten-furlongs. His best finish in a Graded Stakes was 3rd in the 2020 Westchester (G3). This year, he was 8th in the Pimlico Special (G3). Not for nothing… trainer St. Lewis was the Winner of the 2018 JCGC with the longshot DISCREET LOVER.
SUMMARY: This is not the strongest edition of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. In this short field of six runners there are three possible Win contenders.
MAX PLAYER is the top selection here. Despite his Win in the Suburban over HAPPY SAVER in 4th, the public does not fully respect him yet, which gives him Value. With some luck, he might float up to 3-1 or 7-2.
Last year, MAX PLAYER was always on the edge of being one of the top 3-year-old horses. After winning the Withers Stakes (G3) in February, he went on the shelf and came back with 3rd-place finishes in the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes (G1), before 5th-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Sometimes horses need more time before they can put their talent together and start winning races. As an experienced 4-year-old colt, maybe MAX PLAYER is now ready to start contending for the top slot in all the important Grade 1 dirt routes for older horses.
For multi-race wagers, MAX PLAYER and HAPPY SAVER are the right horses.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.