Jockey Club Gold Cup headlines Belmont's big card
NEW YORK (AP) - Bill Mott is looking at a big day at Belmont Park.
The Hall of Fame trainer has the favorite in three of six major stake races Saturday, topped by his 1-2 punch of Ron the Greek and Flat Out in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational.
Ron the Greek is the 5-2 morning-line choice to rebound off his runner-up finish in the Whitney Handicap, while Flat Out is the 3-1 second choice to win the Gold Cup for the second year in a row.
"I'm very pleased with the way both of them are coming into the race,'' Mott said.
Mott also will send out even-money choice Royal Delta in the $400,000 Beldame Invitational and 8-5 favorite To Honor and Serve in the $400,000 Kelso Handicap.
The 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup is the headliner on a stellar race card, featuring five Grade 1 races and the Grade 2 Kelso, with the winners of all six races earning automatic spots in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 3-4.
A field of 10 is entered in the Gold Cup, where Ron the Greek is out to avenge his defeat to Fort Larned in the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 4. Flat Out finished third.
The winner will emerge as one of the favorites for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
"I'm a little bit apprehensive about getting caught up in who's going to be at the `head of the class,''' Fort Larned trainer Ian Wilkes said of his 7-2 third choice. "I'm just trying to look at it as we've won one Grade 1 race, we're trying to add another, and then finish up the year in the Breeders' Cup Classic.''
Last year, Mott's Drosselmeyer ran second in the Gold Cup to Flat Out, then trained by Scooter Dickey. While Flat Out is looking for his first win of the year, Ron the Greek has won a pair of Grade 1s - the Stephen Foster and the Santa Anita Handicap.
Ron the Greek drew the rail and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano; Flat Out has the No. 9 post and will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Also entered are 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty, 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, Hymn Book, Atigun, Fast Falcon, San Pablo and Game Ball.
"With any sort of honest pace in the race, Ron the Greek is a deep closer,'' said Mott, who pulled off a BC Classic-Ladies Classic sweep last year with Drosselmeyer and Royal Delta. "Given the extra eighth of a mile, that should help him sustain his run.''
In the mile Kelso, Woodward winner To Honor and Serve takes on eight rivals, including 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford.
The last time the 4-year-olds met was the Metropolitan Handicap on May 28, with Shackleford winning and To Honor and Serve finishing third, three lengths back. In his only start since, Shackleford was eighth and last in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap over a muddy Saratoga track on Aug. 5.
"We're looking for a big effort from him,'' trainer Dale Romans said of his 2-1 second choice.
To Honor and Serve held on gamely in defeating Much Macho Man in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward at the Spa on Sept. 1.
"He's bounced back since the Woodward, and I think part of it is because he does better in the cool weather,'' Mott said of his colt who has won three of four starts in one-mile races.
"Shackleford beat him in the Met Mile, but I felt like on that particular day we didn't have the golden trip, and to beat a horse like that you've got to have the golden trip.''
The field has four entries from trainer Rick Dutrow: Isn't He Perfect, Gallant Fields, Pacific Ocean and Trickmeister. Also entered are Tapizar, Golddigger's Boy and Jersey Town.
The $400,000, 1 1/8-mile Beldame features a fifth matchup between Royal Delta and It's Tricky in a field of seven fillies and mares.
Royal Delta has two wins over her rival - in last year's Alabama at Saratoga and the BC Ladies Classic - and It's Tricky won the first matchup in the 2011 Coaching Club American Oaks.