2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
Outside of the Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup, the Jockey Club Gold Cup might be my favorite race. The history of the race is just amazing. The legendary Man o' War won the race in 1919. Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation, and Affirmed all won the race. Greats like Cigar and John Henry won it. Curlin and Skip Away each won it twice. Kelso, impossibly, won it five straight times. This is a truly great race, and as the last major prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic it has had added importance over the last couple of decades. If you care about the history of horse racing then you care about the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
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The 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic promises to be a deep and compelling race this year - a potential instant classic, if you'll pardon the pun. Unfortunately, the Jockey Club Gold Cup does not set up to play a major role in that race this year. There are a couple of horses that could be in the Classic out of this seven-horse field, and the winner automatically earns a berth in the starting gate, but the best and the brightest of this year's group is not currently at Belmont - they are all at Santa Anita training up to the main event. That doesn't mean that this is a bad or uninteresting race. It's just not as important as it often has been. Here's how it sets up (horse, jockey, trainer, track morning line):
Keen Ice (Jose Ortiz, Todd Pletcher, 9/5): This is a son of Curlin, so we know he is capable of winning this race. His biggest claim to fame is beating American Pharoah in the Travers in 2015 after that colt had won the Triple Crown and before he won the Breeders' Cup Classic. Keen Ice didn't win again until the Suburban this summer at Belmont, but he has consistently been in the mix against better horses. He followed up that win in the Suburban with a solid second last time out in the Whitney behind a vastly-superior Gun Runner - one of the top Classic contenders. He is in the best form he has been in, and this is the weakest field he has faced in a while. The spot is right for him. I wouldn't want a price too much lower than this, but at this price he's a fair bet and hard not to pick - in large part because there is really no one else to pick. Pletcher has the advantage of having nearly half the field here, too, so it's far less likely that Keen Ice will get a race shape that doesn't work for him.
Pavel (Mario Gutierrez, Doug O'Neill, 5/2): This is a raw three-year-old making just his fourth career start. He got attention winning the Smarty Jones big last time out, but that was against a small-and-fairly-underwhelming group of three-year-olds. This is a huge step up in class - even with a weak field - and I am just not buying that he is ready. At this price I'll happily let him beat me.
Diversify (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Rick Violette, 7/2): The third betting choice in this race is a New York bred who has been running in restricted stakes up to this point, and he is making his graded stakes debut. That's all you need to know about how generally weak this field is and how few excuses Keen Ice will have if he doesn't win. This is a massive step up in class. No value at this price.
Rally Cry (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 6/1): Like Keen Ice, this horse was a well-beaten second behind Gun Runner last time out. He has had three tries at graded stakes company in his career, and that last one was his best. It could be that he is in strong form, or it could be that he just isn't good enough. I could justify putting the three Pletcher horses in a trifecta wheel with Keen Ice keyed on top, but that is as far as I would use this horse.
Good Samaritan (Joel Rosario, Bill Mott, 8/1): This is another three-year-old in the field. He started his career on turf but made a heck of a dirt debut winning the Jim Dandy convincingly over Pavel and two Triple Crown race winners. He came back in the Travers, though, and was outmatched, so it's tough to get excited about him here. Until he proves the Jim Dandy wasn't a fluke, I'll pass.
Destin (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher, 12/1): I really liked this colt last spring when he was sixth in the Kentucky Derby and second by a nose in the Belmont after winning the Tampa Bay Derby. After a dismal outing in the Travers, though, he disappeared. He came back to run okay in an allowance race at Belmont in May then won an allowance in August at Saratoga. I like how he is training, and I like the talent, so at this price he is the clear long shot pick. If I was buying just one exotic ticket it would be a Keen Ice over Destin exacta.
Highland Sky (Rajiv Maragh, Barclay Tagg, 20/1): This four-year-old has only ever run on turf, and this year he hasn't done a very good job of it. Very little chance of success here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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