August 20, 2022

Keen Ice, Destin breeze in company for Jockey Club Gold Cup

The Suburban was the first win by Keen Ice since joining the Todd Pletcher barn (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

Grade 1 winner Keen Ice and and Grade 2 victor Destin breezed in company on Saturday over the fast dirt training track at Belmont Park.

The Todd Pletcher-trained duo clocked a half-mile in :48.60, with Jose Ortiz aboard Keen Ice and exercise rider Hector Ramos holding the reins on Destin. Both runners are headed to the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont on October 7, a “Win & You’re In” qualifier for the November 4 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar.

“It’s kind of what we’ve been accustomed to seeing from him,” Pletcher said in regards to Keen Ice. “Good, solid work and a very strong gallop out. It seemed like he was into it from the beginning to the end.

“I had :12 flat, :23 3/5, :48 1/5, 1:01 2/5, 1:14 4/5 and 1:28 4/5,” he added. “Like a lot of horses, I think that second eighth on the training track is always a little bit fast, and I think the second eighth on the gallop-out is always a little faster, I’m not sure, but I think it’s a little bit downhill from the three eighths pole to the quarter-pole. It seems a lot of horses go :11 and change around that turn.”

Keen Ice will enter the Jockey Club Gold Cup off a runner-up effort in the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 5. Prior to that, the five-year-old son of Curlin captured the Suburban Stakes (G2) by three lengths over track and 1 1/4-mile distance on July 8.

Destin has yet to face stakes company this season, running third in an allowance/optional claimer in his four-year-old bow on May 28 and following up with a nose victory against similar at the Spa on August 23. Last year the Giant’s Causeway colt won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), was a nose second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and filled the third spot in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2).

“He’s not an over-zealous workhorse, kind of does what he has to do,” Pletcher said of Destin. “He isn’t as powerful of a gallop out horse as Keen Ice is, but he’s trained well enough, and hopefully we’ll put a few races under his belt, and he’ll rally back into top form.”

Also working at Belmont on Saturday for the Jockey Club Gold Cup was Diversify, an 11 1/2-length winner of the Evan Shipman Stakes last out on August 21 at Saratoga for trainer Richard Violette Jr.

The Bellamy Road gelding took a spin over Belmont’s fast main track, covering five furlongs in :59.78.

“He went terrific this morning,” Violette said. “He was so impressive in his last start and he seems to be gaining confidence as his career has progressed so we feel he’s deserved an opportunity to see what he can do against open company.”

Prior to the Evan Shipman, Diversify also posted a 2 3/4-length victory in the Saginaw Stakes and was second by a nose in the Commentator Stakes. All three of those stakes were reserved to state-bred runners.

“Coming off his last race, I’m not concerned about the distance at all,” Violette said of stretching the sophomore past nine furlongs for the first time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. “He’s been near or on the lead in many of his races, but it all depends on the pace scenario of the race. If they run the first quarter in :45 then I’ll be worried, but if we’re able to get a tactical trip it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Trainer Jeremiah Englehart sent out Aveenu Malcainu on Saturday to post his final move ahead of the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) on October 8.

The unbeaten Into Mischief juvenile turned a half-mile in a bullet, best-of-55, :46.78 over the main track with regular jockey Luis Saez aboard.

“It seemed like came back good and Luis said he was very happy with him,” Englehart said. “He’s pretty strong. Hopefully he has a good week going into this race.”

Aveenu Malcainu captured his racing debut by three parts of a length on July 28 at Saratoga. Next out, the bay colt scored a 2 1/2-length win in the August 25 Funny Cide Stakes at the Spa despite hitting his head and scratching his nose in his stall the morning of the race.

“I’ll be watching my phone that morning making sure everything is OK,” Englehart laughed. “When you get into races like this, you know anything can happen. You look at Todd (Pletcher) and Chad (Brown) and the best trainers in the country, they all roll with the punches.”

The Champagne is a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on November 4 at Del Mar.

“I thought all along that he could do it, so we’ll see if it makes that step up in this next start,” Englehart said.