By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Who's ready for another
exciting weekend of racing? Four weeks out from the Breeders' Cup, there are
plenty of high-class events to anticipate across North America.
No fewer than 11 graded
stakes events are on the agenda, including a quartet of Grade 1 races on
Saturday at Belmont Park. The $250,000 Champagne (G1) and the $250,000 Jockey
Club Gold Cup (G1) are particularly important on the national calendar, so let's
take a look at both races....
I can't blame anyone who is
eager to support #4 Jackie's Warrior (3-5)
in the Champagne. What's not to like? The Steve Asmussen trainee is undefeated
and unchallenged in three starts, winning his debut at Churchill Downs before
rattling off eye-catching victories in the Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful
(G1). In the latter race—held over 7 furlongs at Saratoga—Jackie's Warrior carved
out fast fractions of :22.56, :44.83, and 1:08.33 before cruising to the finish
line in 1:21.29, breaking the stakes record.
But I'm more interested in #5 Reinvestment Risk (8-5), who
finished second in the Hopeful for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad
Brown. A 7 3/4-length debut winner at Saratoga, Reinvestment Risk was initially
no match Jackie's Warrior blinding speed in the Hopeful, steadily losing ground
to trail by five lengths at the eighth pole.
However, Reinvestment Risk never
lost interest in the battle, and when jockey Joel Rosario started easing up on
Jackie's Warrior, Reinvestment Risk quickly regained lost ground to finish just
2 1/4 lengths behind. I don't think the diminishing margin was entirely due to Jackie's
Warrior taking things easy—I think the winner was starting to grow leg-weary
from his early exertions, while Reinvestment Risk had something left in the
Reinvestment Risk clearly won
the Hopeful gallop-out and boasts a stronger pedigree for stretching out over a
mile in the Champagne. Whereas Jackie's Warrior is bred like a sprinter,
Reinvestment Risk is a son of the six-time Grade 1-placed router Upstart out of
a mare by Candy Ride, so longer distances shouldn't be an issue. I'm willing to
bet Reinvestment Risk can turn the tables on his Hopeful conqueror in the
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)
I'll be the first to admit #4 Tacitus (1-1) isn't the easiest
horse to trust at a short price. The 4-year-old son of Tapit has been defeated in
eight of his last nine runs while starting at less than 6-1 on every occasion. He
was particularly frustrating to his backers in the Sept. 5 Woodward Handicap
(G1) at Saratoga, finishing second at odds of 0.65-1 despite having every
opportunity to take command in the homestretch.
However, the circumstances on
Saturday appear perfect for Tacitus to secure his first Grade 1 win. For
starters, he's returning to the same track and 1 1/4-mile distance as the July
4 Suburban (G2), which Tacitus crushed by 8 3/4 lengths in an eye-catching
performance. Secondly, Tacitus is encountering a small field with very little
speed on paper—it's possible he'll even wind up setting the pace, a significant
But most importantly,
Tacitus should be fitter and faster for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. In the
Woodward, Tacitus was returning from a two-month layoff, and his work tab
looked pretty light—he entered off a modest half-mile in :49 six days
beforehand. With the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) looming
as more important targets, the Woodward seemed like more of a steppingstone
toward bigger and better things than an end goal in and of itself.
As a result, it wasn't
shocking to see Tacitus finish second behind gate-to-wire winner Global
Campaign, a three-time graded stakes winner capable of running big races on his
best day. Tacitus has recorded three workouts since then, including a stiff six
furlongs in 1:14 1/5 on Sept. 25 and a bullet half-mile in :47 1/5 on Oct. 4.
With these sharp workouts
under his belt, Tacitus should be ready to bring his A-game in the Jockey Club
Gold Cup. He doesn't offer a ton of value at even-money, but singling him in
multi-race wagers could be a way to extract wagering value from this tricky
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the major races at Belmont Park this weekend?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.