(Tacitus / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Juddmonte Farms’ three-time graded stakes-winning multimillionaire Tacitus will look to secure his first career Grade 1 triumph in Saturday’s 102nd running of the Grade 1, $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup going the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles at Belmont Park.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier offering an automatic entry into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7 at Keeneland.
The prestigious race is one of five graded stakes on Saturday’s action-packed program, which also includes three other “Win And You’re In” qualifying events along with the Grade 1, $250,000 Flower Bowl for fillies and mares going 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf, offering a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf; the Grade 1, $300,000 Champagne for juvenile colts going one mile on the main track, providing a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; and the Grade 1, $250,000 Frizette for juvenile fillies going one mile on the main track, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The lucrative card is bolstered by the Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point for sophomore fillies going one mile over the Widener turf.
Since its inception in 1919, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has been one of the most prestigious events on the racing calendar having been won by Hall of Famers Man o’ War , Hill Prince , Nashua [1955-56], Sword Dancer , Buckpasser , Damascus , Forego , John Henry , Easy Goer , Cigar , Skip Away [1996-97] and Curlin [2007-08]. The great Kelso won the Jockey Club Gold Cup a record five straight years from 1960-64. Nine Kentucky Derby winners have won the prized event, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox , Whirlaway , Citation  and Affirmed .
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, a three-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, Tacitus was third in last year’s edition and was most recently second as the favorite in the Grade 1 Woodward on September 5 at Saratoga, where he chased a slow pace tracking a half-length off Global Campaign but was unable to catch the pacesetter, who strolled home a 1 ¾-length winner.
The 4-year-old son of Tapit out of 2014 Champion Older Mare Close Hatches made some noise on last year’s Kentucky Derby trail with scores in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial en route to being elevated to third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. He followed with three runner-up finishes as the favorite, including a late-closing second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy ahead of a prominent effort in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers.
Two starts following an international endeavor in his 2020 debut when fifth in the Group 1 Saudi Cup on February 29, Tacitus added another graded stakes triumph to his ledger with an 8 ¾-length runaway win in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 4 at Belmont Park, which also is contested at the classic distance.
Tacitus has trained forwardly heading into Saturday’s race, recently posting a half-mile drill in 47.20 on October 4 – the fastest of 77 recorded works at the distance.
Mott said he has no regrets regarding Tacitus’ race tactics in the Woodward.
“Looking back, I don’t think we did anything wrong,” said Mott. “The horse that beat him just ran a very good race. The only thing we could have tried differently, and I don’t know that it would have changed the outcome was maybe go to that horse [Global Campaign] right away from the gate. I don’t know that it would have changed anything. You sure weren’t going to take him back more, the only thing would have been going on the attack early.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard for all three of Tacitus’ graded stakes victories, will ride once more, drawing post 4.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup has had a long history of sophomores besting their elders in the event, and a pair of 3-year-olds will be making their debut against older horses this year with Godolphin’s graded stakes winner Mystic Guide and Wertheimer and Frere’s unbeaten Happy Saver.
Trained by Michael Stidham, Mystic Guide bypassed last Saturday’s Grade 1 Preakness in favor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was a last out winner of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on September 5 at Saratoga, which was his only start where he was not made the favorite.
The well-bred chestnut son of Ghostzapper out of four-time Grade 1 winner Music Note has never finished off the board in five lifetime starts including a five-length triumph at second asking in his two-turn debut on March 21 at Fair Grounds. He was subsequently beaten by the same margin in his next effort against winners going a one-turn mile-and-a-sixteenth at Belmont to Tap It to Win before finishing third in the Grade 3 Peter Pan on July 16 at the Spa.
Mystic Guide registered a career-best 95 Beyer from his Jim Dandy score. The return to winning form was likely due to the addition of blinkers, according to Jimmy Bell who manages Godolphin’s USA division.
“We were very, very pleased with his Jim Dandy run,” said Bell. “He stepped up and found his way to the top level. A little of it was the blinkers and getting him more involved in the race early not giving him too much to do at the end. We’re looking forward to the distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.”
Bell said he is looking forward to seeing what the lightly-raced Mystic Guide can show as a 4-year-old and that he should relish the 1 ¼ miles.
“We’re very much looking forward to his 4-year-old year,” Bell said. “We’re really looking forward to the mile and a quarter race. He seems like a horse that will finish up well and not get tired.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, a three-time winning Jockey Club Gold Cup rider, will pilot Mystic Guide for the first time from post 5.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle Happy Saver, who has won all three of his lifetime starts but will face graded stakes company for the first time.
The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, who also was conditioned by Pletcher, was a 5 ½-length winner on debut going seven furlongs over Big Sandy before defeating winners in his two-turn debut at Saratoga at 1 1/8 miles.
Last out, he added “stakes winner” to his resume with a 1 ½-length score in the Federico Tesio at Laurel Park on September 7.
“He’s a lightly raced 3-year-old going up against older horses, but he’s done everything that we’ve asked of him so far,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher said he has taken a patient approach with the lightly-raced Happy Saver.
“He just had some baby setbacks,” Pletcher said. “We almost had him ready to run here last fall, but we had to give him a break. It just took him a little while to get ready, but he’s certainly made up a lot of ground in a short period of time.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who guided Happy Saver to his first two wins, has the mount from post 1.
A strong third-place effort against Grade 1 company has given veteran conditioner Jimmy Bond confidence to try Prioritize against such caliber once more, as he breaks from post 2.
Owned by William Clifton, Jr. the son of Tizway closed late to secure the show spot in the Grade 1 Woodward, where he was three lengths shy of the winner. Since moving to the main track, Prioritize has not finished out the money, having won his dirt debut for a $35,000 tag on December 20 at Aqueduct and secured a narrow allowance win at the Spa on July 25 over highly regarded Money Moves. When contesting on grass, he was twice third against stakes company in the 2018 Better Talk Now at Saratoga and the Grade 2 Hill Prince just over one month later at Belmont Park.
Jockey Luis Saez picks up the mount aboard Prioritize.
Rounding out the field is Colts Neck Stables’ Name Changer, a 7-year-old Uncle Mo dark bay horse seeking his first win since the Queens County in December 2018 at Aqueduct.
Trained by Jorge Duarte, Jr., Name Changer has not won in four starts since said effort but has not finished worse than fourth. A winner of the 2018 Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, he arrives off a fourth-place finish to Pirate’s Punch in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on September 20 at Monmouth Park.
Jockey Manny Franco, who guided Discreet Lover to a 45-1 upset win in the 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup, will attempt another longshot score in the race from post 3.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race program, which offers a first post of 12:20 p.m. Eastern. America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the 27-day fall meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete America’s Day at the Races broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.