(Preservationist headlines today’s G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

In a short period of time, Preservationist has made enough noise to establish himself as a major force in the handicap division, but a victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup could put him atop the older horse division.

Saturday’s lucrative Jockey Club Gold Cup Day card features four graded stakes, including two Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In events with the Jockey Club Gold Cup offering a berth in the Grade 1, $6 million Classic and the Grade 1, $300,000 Vosburgh providing a berth in the Grade 1, $2 million Sprint, both on Saturday, November 2 at Santa Anita Park.

America’s Day at the Races will present live national television coverage of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day at Belmont, which also features the Grade 2, $300,000 Beldame and Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim, from 2:30-6:30 p.m. on FS2 with regional coverage airing on MSG Networks from 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Owned by Centennial Farms and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Preservationist made his stakes debut at the age of 6 just three starts back when besting Grade 1-winners Catholic Boy and Pavel in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 6 over Big Sandy. He earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure in the process, but his effort in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga did not go as planned, when he went to the lead and faltered to fourth, beaten 7 ¾ lengths.

Last out at Saratoga, the lightly raced Arch bay redeemed himself with a victory in the Grade 1 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets, where he stalked a moderate pace, was patiently ridden by Junior Alvarado and split horses at the top of the stretch to win by a half-length.

Centennial Farms’ President and co-owner Don Little, Jr. believes that the large and vocal crowd at the Spa contributed to his lackluster fourth in the Whitney, which is his only off-the-board effort in a dozen lifetime starts.

“Believe it or not, it was all new to him,” Little, Jr. said. “The crowd was big and making noise and he got a little bit wound up, but he’s been a different horse since then. He manhandled his way through horses in the Woodward and he’s been great since that big race.”

The five-horse field assembled for the Gold Cup wasn’t quite what Little, Jr. was hoping for, but nevertheless he believes Preservationist, who will again be piloted by Alvarado, will still run his good race.

“I don’t really like small fields in big races like this. Sometimes it comes down to it being a jockey’s race and your strategy can fall apart,” Little said. “It will be interesting to see. Junior has ridden him numerous times and I’m sure he’ll familiarize himself with the other horses in the race and do the best he can.”

Little, Jr. and the Centennial Farms team could be visiting the winner’s circle earlier in the card when they debut highly regarded 2-year-old Ethos, who also is trained by Jerkens.

Bred in Kentucky by Colts Neck Stables, the son of Ghostzapper was a $550,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. He is out of the Mr. Greeley broodmare Happy Now, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winning millionaires Ironicus and On Leave.

“I’m really excited about him. We’ve got a lot of nice 2-year-olds this year, as we usually do,” Little, Jr. said. “It’s a nice looking field of young horses and they’re all first time starters with the exception of one. You’ve got a really well bred into Mischief for Juddmonte [Toledo]. It really looks like a Travers day maiden race.”

Little, Jr. said Ethos stood out in a crowd at the sale.

“He’s a nice horse. He stood out at the sale,” Little, Jr. said. “His walk was exceptional, just beautiful and athletic. He looks very athletic in his breezes. Good horses don’t look like they’re going fast when they are.”

Ethos will be ridden by jockey Joel Rosario.

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Paolucci cautiously optimistic about G1 JCGC contender Olympic Village

Owner Ron Paolucci has a trio of contenders on deck for Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Day card and even though all three are sure to be a big price, he is taking an optimistic approach.

In the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Olympic Village is one of five entrants in the prestigious 1 ¼-mile event over the Belmont main track facing off against Grade 1-winners Code of Honor, Preservationist and Vino Rosso as well as multiple graded stakes winner Tacitus.

The gelded 3-year-old son of Congrats has only made four career starts, three of which were wins. He was claimed by trainer Bob Hess on behalf of co-owner Jeffrey Lambert last out, where he won for a $75,000 tag at Saratoga. He was cross-entered in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Ack Ack, but opted for the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Paolucci said Olympic Village is training well in Saturday’s class test.

“I bought into him when Bob claimed him. I watched some of his works and liked what I saw. He’s been training sensationally,” Paolucci said. “Bob is a conservative type of trainer so the fact that he is willing to run here says that the horse has more ability than what’s shown on paper. It says a lot that he would want to run here as opposed to the Ack Ack.”

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who piloted Bernardini to a win in the 2006 Gold Cup, has the call.

Paolucci will also be represented by Ohio-bred Brown Buckeye in the Grade 1, $300,000 Vosburgh.

The son of Big Brown defeated his Ohio-bred counterparts last out in the Honey Jay on August 10 at Thistledown over graded stakes placed and multiple stakes winner Altissimo.

“I really like this horse and he’s always shown ability,” Paolucci said. “He dealt with a minor injury a while back and we took the blinkers off and he beat a really nice horse that won a stake at Delaware Park in Altissimo. This horse is coming in really well and we’re expecting him to run well.”

Trained by Anthony Quartarolo, Brown Buckeye will be ridden by Jose Bracho.

In the Grade 2, $300,000 Beldame, Spring in the Wind seeks her first victory since taking an optional claiming sprint at Woodbine in December. Her lone start over Big Sandy took place in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses where she broke badly en route to finishing fifth.

“She works like a Grade 1 filly and she’s shown some ability in the mornings,” Paolucci said. “Even in her race at Belmont, she had a bad stumble at the break and chased [Separationofpowers] in some ridiculously fast times. With her going from sprinting to routing we’ll expect her to be on the lead. Midnight Bisou is a great filly, but it’s a horse race.”

Trained by Bob Hess, Spring in the Wind will be piloted by Jose Bracho.

Paolucci said graded stakes winner Heavenhasmynikki, who has not raced since a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 11, could make her next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland.

“We’re looking at the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland or a stakes in Ohio for her,” said Paolucci. “We’ll use the next race as a gauge of which route we go between the Filly and Mare Sprint or the Distaff.”

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A Thread of Blue works ahead of G2 Hill Prince

Stakes-winners A Thread of Blue and Dawn the Destroyer breezed in company on Thursday at Belmont Park and came out of it in good order, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. The duo breezed a bullet four furlongs in 47.47 seconds on the main track, the fastest of 38 at the distance.

Leonard Green’s A Thread of Blue will look to parlay that strong work into success in the Grade 2, $400,000 Hill Prince on October 5 at Belmont. The 1 1/8-mile contest on the inner turf will be A Thread of Blue’s first start since competing in the final two legs of NYRA’s newly implemented Turf Triple series for sophomores, which included a win in the middle jewel in the Saratoga Derby on August 4 before running fourth last out in the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Derby Invitational on September 7.

The son of Hard Spun will be cutting back in distance and looking for firmer grass after running last out on turf labeled good. A $430,000 purchase at the 2018 Ocala Breeders’ Sale, A Thread of Blue has won three races and came in second in six starts in his 3-year-old campaign, including a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Palm Beach in March at Gulfstream Park and the Saratoga Derby in which he posted a personal-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the 1 3/16-mile route. He also ran a close second, three-quarters of a length back to Digital Age, in the Grade 2 American Turf in May at Churchill Downs.

“He worked great yesterday and he’ll be cutting back in distance,” McLaughlin said. “It doesn’t look like there’s much rain in the forecast. He prefers it firmer, and it looks like he’s going to get it. He looks good, and the mile and an eighth [should] help.”

McLaughlin said he hasn’t finalized the next spot for Dawn the Destroyer, who had her first workout since running second to Come Dancing by 3 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Ballerina on Travers Day, August 24, at Saratoga.

Owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables, the 5-year-old daughter of Speightstown has finished in the money in six of her last seven starts, including a victory in the Interborough in January at Aqueduct Racetrack. She has finished third in three graded stakes races this year, starting with the Barbara Fritchie in February at Laurel Park and continuing in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap in April at the Big A and the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses Invitational in June at Belmont.

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Donk looking for upset in G2 Miss Grillo with English Breeze

Funky Munky Stable’s English Breeze is set to face graded stakes competition for the first time in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo.

The New York-bred juvenile, trained by David Donk, has already proven she can compete against open company coming in off a third-place finish last out in the P.G. Johnson on August 29 at Saratoga.

Sired by English Channel, English Breeze won by 4 ¾ lengths in her August 14 debut at the Spa going 1 1/16 miles on the turf against fellow New York-breds.

Donk said that performance gave merited a start in the P.G. Johnson where she left the gate at odds of 5-1 to finish a half-length behind fellow Miss Grillo entrant Crystalle.

“She had trained well on the dirt before her first race, but being by English Channel, we wanted to give her a try on the turf,” said Donk. “She certainly gave us a pleasant surprise by how well she ran. Logically, the next step was to head into the P.G. Johnson and I thought she did well to compete running against a talented filly [Crystalle] to only get beat by a half-length.”

English Breeze has posted two works at Belmont Park since the P.G. Johnson and Donk said he is hoping English Breeze can continue to improve with regular rider Manny Franco aboard for the mount.

“I think she was a little green in each of her first two starts,” said Donk. “There’s still room for her to improve and she’s been showing improvement in the mornings. Thankfully, we’ve got Manny aboard who’s always been a ‘go-to’ guy for us. He’s ridden in each of her starts so he is familiar with her. He’s a good young rider so we’re fortunate to have him aboard. We think she’s ready, so we’ll use this race to see where we stand going forward.”

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Kimmel’s hot streak with 2-year-olds could continue with Mandatory

In four decades of conditioning thoroughbreds, John Kimmel said he could have the strongest crop of 2-year-olds that’s come through his operation. The veteran trainer will display yet another highly regarded youngster in Mandatory, who makes his debut in Saturday’s sixth race.

The Tobey Morton-owned chestnut is by first crop sire and 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and is a half-brother to three-time Grade 1-winning multimillionaire I’m a Chatterbox. Both are out of the Lost Solider broodmare Chit Chatter.

Kimmel already has a solid roster of 2-year-olds such as Crystalle, who won the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and headlines Sunday’s Grade 2 Miss Grillo as well as Ontario-bred Famished, who broke his maiden at the Spa and is entered in the Grade 3 Pilgrim on Saturday.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I actually think that we might have the strongest group of 2-year-olds that we may have ever had. We got supported pretty well in the marketplace and bought really nice horses,” Kimmel said. “That doesn’t always lead to success on the racetrack, but this group has shown up very well. We have a few that haven’t started yet that should be okay.”

Kimmel recalled looking at Mandatory at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where he was purchased for $400,000, and said that although his breeze was not impressive, his gallop out was really what caught his attention.

“This colt came out of the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale and he didn’t breeze all that great. He was overlooked. He went 10 and 3 or 4 but he was kind of inexperienced,” Kimmel said. “He had changed lanes and he wasn’t into a good rhythm, he was late leaving the pole, but what really caught my eye was how he galloped out the next three-eighths. It was a really, really strong gallop out. That focused my attention on what he was doing. The only other horse that got that gallop out time was the $3 million Curlin horse. He went 10 and 4 and he got overlooked. I liked him physically, American Pharoah was kind of an unknown but his family has good history. I’m a Chatterbox was a nice mile and a quarter horse. We’re looking forward to seeing him get started. It’s a contentious race.”

Mandatory has worked in company with Harris Bay, another nice-looking 2-year-old of Kimmel’s that broke its maiden on September 15 at Big Sandy.

“He’s not been the quickest from the gate but hopefully he finishes with good energy. He was a work partner with Harris Bay,” Kimmel said. “Those two have worked together numerous times and I put Mandatory behind him and let him take some dirt. I think there’s lots of reasons to be optimistic, we’ll just have to see what happens on race day.”

Jokey Dylan Davis is scheduled to ride Mandatory.

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Promises Fulfilled out, American Power likely in G1 Vosburgh

Robert Baron and WinStar Farm’s talented sprinter Promises Fulfilled will be scratched from Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Vosburgh at Belmont Park.

Promises Fulfilled, a chestnut Shackleford colt, breezed on Friday morning at his Churchill Downs base going five furlongs in 59.80 seconds. The five-time graded stakes winner was a disappointing sixth last out in the Grade 1 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor at Saratoga. He earned a free berth into this year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita when taking the Grade 2 John Nerud in July at Belmont Park.

Seven-time winner American Power, who was cross-entered in Laurel Park’s Challendon on Saturday, will likely remain entered in the Vosburgh according to trainer Linda Rice, who owns the Power Broker chestnut in partnership with Stephen Cooper.

“I think we are [running],” Rice said. “It’s a bit of a tall order to run against Imperial Hint and Firenze Fire but hopefully we’ll be looking at a good check.”

Imperial Hint, the likely overwhelming favorite for the Vosburgh, enters the six-furlong dirt sprint off a track record performance in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga.

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Belmont Park Week 5 stakes probables

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
Probable: Channel Cat (Todd Pletcher), Channel Maker (Bill Mott), Cross Border (Mike Maker), Sadler’s Joy (Tom Albertrani), Ya Primo (Brown)
Possible: Arklow (Brad Cox); Nakamura (Graham Motion)

Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne – Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Juvenile
Probable: Alpha Sixty Six (Pletcher); Flap Jack (Jack Sisterson); Gozilla (Steve Asmussen); Green Light Go (Jimmy Jerkens); Three Technique (Jeremiah Englehart)
Possible: Ajaaweed (Kiaran McLaughlin); Lebda (Claudio Gonzalez); Mr. Tip (Sisterson)

Grade 2, $400,000 Hill Prince
Probable: A Thread of Blue (McLaughlin); Bourbon War (Mark Hennig); Digital Age (Brown); Neptune’s Storm (Richard Baltas); Seismic Wave (Mott); Standard Deviation (Brown); Taos (Jean-Claude Rouget); Uncle Benny (Jason Servis)
Possible: English Bee (Motion)

Grade 3, $150,000 Matron
Probable: A Freud of Mama (Mike Maker); Alms (Mike Stidham); Pure Wow (John Terranova); Time Limit (Maker)
Possible: American Giant (Mike Trombetta); Karak (Wesley Ward); Kimari (Ward)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl – Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Filly & Mare Turf
Probable: Beau Belle (Tom Albertrani); Ferdinanda (Barclay Tagg); Mrs. Sippy (Motion); Sistercharlie (Brown); Thais (Brown)

Grade 3, $150,000, Futurity – Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Juvenile Turf Sprint
Probable: Another Miracle (Gary Contessa); Embolden (Stidham); Fly Fly Away (Clement); Four Wheel Drive (Ward); Freewheeler (Pletcher); Nettleton (Jorge Abreu)
Possible: King Snake (Sisterson); Me and Mr. C. (Ned Allard)