A dynamite field of eight will enter the gate for Saturday's 95th running of the Grade One $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Super Saturday at Belmont Park.
It is the featured race on a card that includes six graded stakes where the winners automatically qualify for the 2013 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park via the "Win and You're In" format.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is run at a distance of 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Its past winners line up as a who's who of the all-time greats in thoroughbred racing history. Man o' War, Kelso (a five-time winner) and Curlin (twice) are a few who have entered the Winner's Circle for the prestigious event.
Rather than rehash ancient history with a dogged laundry list of Jockey Club Gold Cup accomplishments, we will get right down to brass tacks and break down the current race at hand, i.e., the potential winners and those who figure to round out the money positions underneath.
With eight entries scheduled to start, No. 6 Flat Out (3-1) will be looking for his third straight Jockey Club Gold Cup victory. Unfortunately, off his recent big effort in finishing second in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, Saturday will not be his day. Mark Flat Out down for third place or below.
Almost the same can be said for No. 5 Alpha (8-1), who defeated Flat Out by a head in the Woodward while wiring the field. The exception being, a wire job is not in the cards for Alpha against a deeper and faster field. Alpha can be expected to finish fourth or below.
No. 8 Cross Traffic (5-2) is one of my two top choices for win honors on Saturday. The other is No. 7 Palace Malice (4-1). They will be ridden by Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Mike Smith, respectively.
Palace Malice was sired by two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Curlin (2007-2008).
Cross Traffic has the early pace edge to run off and hide, while Palace Malice has both speed and proven stamina in winning the 2013 Belmont Stakes. Both are likely to hit the board (win/place/show), with one of them prevailing as the winner.
No. 2 Orb (9-2), the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner and a fan favorite, finds himself tossed into the deep end of the pool in this one. A deep closer who has been moving backwards since his Derby victory, Orb will require a complete meltdown by the primary contenders, but he may grab a slice by coming in fourth place.
No. 3 Last Gunfighter (10-1) is a threat to light up the exotics. Trained by the white-hot Chad Brown, the four-year-old colt is my only choice to possibly upset Cross Traffic or Palace Malice. A winner of seven out of his last eight races, Last Gunfighter could finish anywhere from first to fourth.
Rounding out the field, No. 1 Ron the Greek (12-1) and No. 4 Vitoria Olimpica (20-1) appear too slow to contend.
2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup Entries
No. 1 Ron the Greek (12-1)
No. 2 Orb (9-2)
No. 3 Last Gunfighter (10-1)
No. 4 Vitoria Olimpica (20-1)
No. 5 Alpha (8-1)
No. 6 Flat Out (3-1)
No. 7 Palace Malice (4-1)
No. 8 Cross Traffic (5-2)