Keen Ice can enhance his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) credentials in Saturday’s 99th running of the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park. The 1 ¼-mile race serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the $6 million championship event at Del Mar on November 4 and Keen Ice tops a field of seven.
One of three entrants for Todd Pletcher, Keen Ice appears to be discovering his optimal form in the twilight of his career. The 5-year-old son of Curlin registered a lifetime-best 112 BRIS Speed rating for a three-length triumph in the Suburban (G2) at Belmont two back and exits a clear second to Gun Runner in the August 5 Whitney (G1) at Saratoga. Both of his stakes wins have come at the 10-furlong distance and Jose Ortiz retains the mount on the Donegal Racing and Calumet Farm color bearer.
Pletcher is also responsible for Grade 2 scorer Destin and stakes victor Rally Cry. A nose second in the 2016 Belmont Stakes (G1), Destin came back from a lengthy layoff with a third versus allowance/optional claiming foes in late May and returned to the win column with a game tally against similar company at Saratoga in late August. Rally Cry recorded a sharp 8 ¾-length victory in the Alydar at Saratoga and followed with a non-threatening second to Gun Runner in the September 2 Woodward (G1). John Velazquez sticks with Rally Cry and Luis Saez picks up the call on Destin.
Pavel brings plenty of intrigue to his first start against elders. A late-starting sophomore, winning his career debut on July 1, the California-based colt jumped straight to stakes company with a respectable fourth in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga. Trainer Doug O’Neill elected to bypass the Travers (G1) and Pavel tuned up for his first Grade 1 attempt with a facile six-length win in the September 4 Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx. Pavel figures to be forwardly-placed with regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan is also part of the mix. Fifth in the Travers, the confirmed closer adds blinkers and Joel Rosario will be up for Bill Mott.
Multiple New York-bred stakes winner Diversify is the expected pacesetter and turf specialist Highland Sky completes the line-up.