With the 20th Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship less than a month away, trainers and owners are entering their horses in the final round of tune-up races in preparation for the big dance at Santa Anita. Traditionally, the "Breeders' Cup Preview" races are conducted at Belmont Park, and on Saturday's card were four Grade 1 events featuring some of the possible favorites for year-end championship honors and more than 19,034 fans were on hand to witness potential greats in the making.
Mineshaft winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.
The highlight of the afternoon was the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, with Classic horses entered. Favored Mineshaft did not disappoint, as he uncorked a
powerful yet seemingly effortless run to win the 1 1/4-mile event by 4 1/4 lengths over stubborn pacesetter Quest in 2:00 1/5. With jockey Robby
Albarado up, Mineshaft targeted Quest, who broke from the rail, and Moon
Ballad, who pressed the leader through a quarter of :24 and a half of :47
3/5. As he did in the Woodward, Mineshaft stalked the leaders, came clear
around the turn, and then put on the show everyone wanted to see. More importantly, and barring any outlandish circumstance, he established
himself as the leading candidate for Horse of the Year for 2003. Even a loss in the Breeders'
Cup Classic at Santa Anita on October 25th would not seem to be enough to
unseat him from this throne. The Jockey Club Gold Cup was his third
straight Grade 1 victory of the year and his seventh in nine overall
starts for 2003. Winning jockey Albarado said, "I'm appreciative of the
opportunity I've had so far to ride such a great horse. It would be a big
plus if he would run [in the Breeders' Cup Classic] for racing to see a
superstar like Mineshaft. He's simply unbelievable. Every race, he exceeds
my expectations. Every time I ride him, I think that there can't be any
more. And in every race, there is more and more and more. He's great for
racing." Winning owner William Farish of Lane's End Farm said, "I don't think this horse has anything more to prove. We've
laid out our course and invited the other horses in the country to come.
In the last few races, they've gone the other direction. But we've gone
exactly where we've said we were going seven months ago. I'm not ruling
anything out. This was a big day for us. We have to sit down and sort of
check it out." Results Chart
Sulamani winner of the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont.
The $750,000 Turf Classic is the major East Coast prep for the Breeders' Cup Turf. 3-5 favorite Sulamani performed just as his backers expected. With
Balto Star setting a pace of :25 2/5; :50 1/5 and 1:14 3/5, jockey Jerry Bailey kept
his mount a stalking fifth and then swung wide for the stretch run.
Sulamani's class overcame an apparent bad step aound the turn to claim a 2 3/4-length victory over Deeliteful Irving in 2:27 2/5 . The win was his seventh in eleven career starts. Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said, "He ran fabulous and we are very excited with the win. He showed great acceleration toward the end of the race, something that he has always shown. We just hope he makes that same move in the Breeders' Cup." Winning jockey Jerry Bailey said, "That was a very athletic and courageous performance. In these races, not much separates the horses. You need a good trip." Results Chart
Dimitrova winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont.
The $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational featured Filly and Mare Turf eligibles. Dimitrova, a three-year-old Swain filly carrying the low weight of 114 pounds with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey aboard, sat comfortably behind Snow
Dance, who set a pace of :22 2/5; :49 4/5; and 1:14 4/5, then came with a
wide run to outlast German invader Walzerkoenigin by a length. She covered
the mile and a half on the inner turf in 2:02 3/5 and redeemed a loss in
the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup here on September 7th. Her victory was her fourth in eight career starts. Trainer Dermot Weld said, "This was a great performance by her. We had her ready for this race and she proved to be the top filly that she is. Jerry (Bailey) also gave her a beautiful ride in this race. The obvious direction is sending her back to California for the Breeders' Cup. She is a tough, genuine filly and we have a lot to look forward to." Winning jockey Bailey, winning his 21st Grade 1 of the year to break Mike Smith's 1994 record of 20, said, "[Weld] thought I rode her well last time; a hole had opened up, so I went. He told me if I could wait a little longer this time, she might be more
effective." Nosed out for the place was favored Heat Haze. "She was trying to run, but Jose
(Valdivia Jr.) didn't ride a good race," said Hall of Fame trainer Bobby
Frankel. "She was trying to run up there and he was trying to get her back in
last. She'll go on [to the Breeders' Cup]." Results Chart
Ghostzapper winner of the Vosburgh Handicap at Belmont.
Rounding out the card was the $500,000 Vosburgh Handicap, shortened to 6 1/2 furlongs from its traditional seven-panel distance to make it a more attractive Breeders' Cup Sprint prep. Champion trainer Bobby Frankel, who is looking for a second Breeders' Cup sprint win, now has two top contenders with his Vosburgh winner Ghostzapper as well as Forego and Tom Fool winner Aldebaran. Voodoo and jockey Jorge Chavez wrested the early
lead and go the first quarter of a mile in :21 4/5 and the half in :44 1/5
on the fast main track. The hot pace set up a bunch of closers, but it was
especially to Ghostzapper's liking, who came on strong from last early on to win going away by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:14 3/5, just 1/5 off the track record. Winning trainer Bobby Frankel said, "I was really surprised how fast he caught these
horses. He was 12 [lengths] out of it, and the next thing you know, that's
him on the outside. I said, `How did he get there so fast?' I could have three [for the Sprint] Ghostzapper, Aldebaran and maybe Midas Eyes, too." Breeders' Cup "jinx jockey" Javier Castellano said, "Bobby [Frankel]
told me to take my time with the horse and make the one big run. I knew
they were going fast for the first part of the race. As I was told, I took
my time with him and made my move. He just went by them all. I'm hoping to make my first Breeders' Cup with this horse. I've had two opportunities to make the Breeders' Cup, but neither horse made it to the gate." Results Chart