One of racing’s jewels each year before the Breeders Cup races is the Jockey Club Gold Cup. At Belmont Park, this GR 1 event at the classic distance of 1 ¼ Mile generally features some of the top handicap horses in the country. This year’s rendition includes last year’s BC Classic runner-up Effinex. In post position order:
- 12-1 Protonico :7 (April 2015) Best. Long Circle Back pattern. He returned to the races after a 9 month layoff with a gutsy Allowance score at a flat mile, posting a Number of 5.1. Previously he has competed well in Graded Stakes company. Castellano hops aboard this Pletcher trainee, so the connections are stellar. My main concern is that he is stretching out 2 full furlongs to a distance where he is unproven. Fresh horse that could be in the mix with a big step forward.
- 8-5 Mubtaahij:4 Best. Paired his Best. He ran a smasher in his most recent, a heartbreaking loss by a head in a thrilling 4 horse photo in the 1 1/8 Mile GR 1 Woodward at Saratoga. Excellent connections and the distance should be no issue. I think additional improvement is likely. He needs another step forward.
- 7-2 Hoppertunity: 4 Best. Fading pattern. His 0.4 Best in winning the GR 2 San Antonio at 1 1/8 Mile in February is fast indeed. Since then, his Numbers have backed up, and there have been noticeable gaps in his racing schedule. Trained by Baffert and with Valezquez taking the mount, he has top notch connections. He has tried 10 furlongs a few times, and his Numbers indicate a preference for a bit shorter. His connections make him worth a long look.
- 30-1 War Story: 2 Best. Marching pattern. He improved to that 6.2 Best in his most recent, a non-Graded stakes at Parx 2 weeks ago. Jockey Gallardo has been winning with a phenomenal 25% of his mounts and trainer Serey also has a nice win rate. He has competed against the big boys a few times and has not really been competitive. Will need the race of his life.
- 10-1 Watershed:2 (Route) Best. Slight regression. He actually sports a blistering fast -0.7 Best; however that was earned in a 7 furlong even last year at Santa Anita. His Route races have been slower. Excellent connections. He will need a big step forward.
- 7-5 Effinex: 0.9 Best. Marching pattern. That 9 Best is a very fast Number, albeit coming in a 4th place finish in the GR 1 Whitney behind Frosted. This guy has proven himself as one of the very top handicap horses, including a runner-up finish in last year’s BC Classic behind American Pharoah. Connections Jerkins and Mike Smith are primo. Distance is no issue, and the equal weights conditions benefits Effinex, as he usually totes more than his foes. It also looks to me like he will be the controlling speed, and if Smith can grab an easy lead, I figure Effinex will be nearly impossible to catch. He has been off for 9 weeks, so I am concerned about conditioning. If ready, he is clearly the one to beat!
Effinex has a clear edge over these. At equal weights, and what looks to me like a pace advantage, I expect him to jog them to death. 9 weeks on the bench is my only real concern.