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2021 Jockey Club Gold Cup Quick Picks

The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup has a new home at Saratoga this year. The race is a 2021 Breeders’ Cup Challenge contest, and the winner receives a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic starting gate.

The prestigious event for older horses has been contested since 1919. Over time, the race has been shortened from two miles to 1 1/4-miles, and the fields have come up a bit short in recent years. However, despite the size of the field, the quality has continued to thrive year in year out.

The multiple winners of the Jockey Club Gold Cup include names steeped in racing history. From recent memory of Tonalist, Flat Out, and Curlin to the superstars of the past in Skip Away, Creme Fraiche, Slew o’ Gold, Shuvee, Nashua, and of course Kelso, but he won it five times.

This year, nine older horses will travel 1 1/4 miles over Saratoga’s main track. Carded as race 12, the track should be fast, and post time is 6:46 PM ET.

#4 Happy Saver (9-5)

Happy Saver hopes to join the elite list of multiple winners after his triumph over eventual Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide last season. With Mystic Guide out of contention, Happy Saver’s biggest challenger is Max Player, who ended Happy Saver’s undefeated record in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes in July.

However, the race was held over a sloppy track, and the only time Happy Saver has encountered the surface. The Todd Pletcher trainee is the only Grade 1 winner in the field. Win contender.

#2 Max Player (5-2)

Max Player has won once in five attempts at 1 1/4-miles, in the aforementioned Suburban Stakes in the mud, which is his favorite running surface. The Steve Asmussen trainee was third in both Grade 1 attempts; the shortened 2020 Belmont Stakes (G1) and the Travers (G1), bested both times by Tiz the Law. Win contender.

#1 Forza Di Oro (8-5)

Forza Di Oro won his last three races, including the 1 1/8 mile Discovery Stakes (G3) last November. The Bill Mott trainee recently won an allowance race at Saratoga, his first off a long layoff.

Forza Di Oro earned a career-best Brisnet speed figure of 108, a six-point jump from his previous start, so regression is possible against more formidable foes. Exotics contender.

#5 Night Ops (5-1)

Night Ops has a serious case of seconditis, and has been the runner-up four consecutive times, and he has finished out of the money only once in his last ten starts. The 5-year-old has never raced beyond 1 1/8-miles, but Night Ops can sit anywhere in the race with his tactical running style. Exotics contender.

#3 Chess Chief (15-1)

Chess Chief has been unsuccessful against lesser company lately, and he was off the board in his last two starts. His last victory was in the New Orleans Handicap (G2) in March. His only start in a Grade 1 was an eighth-place finish in the 2019. Toss.

#6 Forewarned (50-1)

Forewarned is the Jockey Club Gold Cup’s “Why?” horse. All three of his stakes victories were at Ohio tracks, including his last victory in the 1 1/4 mile Ohio Endurance Stakes in October 2020.

Forewarned’s best placing in graded stakes was a distant third, beaten 6 1/2 lengths in the 2020 Westchester (G3). Although trainer Uriah St. Lewis won the 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup with the longshot Discreet Lover, he’s up against it this time around. Toss.

Jockey Club Gold Cup Analysis

There isn’t a speed horse who could throw a wrench into the pace of the race. The most likely culprits to set the pace are Forza Di Oro at the rail or Happy Saver, although Happy Saver is more likely to settle in second place, perhaps to the outside of Max Player.

Night Ops, Chess Chief, and Forewarned will all be trying to close in late; however, it is unlikely they will get the pace needed to be contenders.

  • #4 Happy Saver (9-5)
  • #2 Max Player (5-2)
  • #1 Forza Di Oro (8-5)

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