amNY at the Track: Todd Pletcher holds strong hand in Jockey Club Gold Cup on closing weekend at Saratoga

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Jockey Club Gold Cup preview
Americanrevolution, who won the 2021 Albany Stakes at Saratoga, looks to duplicate his success at the Spa in Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup.
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Simply put, the Jockey Club Gold Cup on the final weekend of the 2022 Saratoga meet this Saturday is trainer Todd Pletcher’s to lose.

The all-star trainer has four of the race’s eight runners, meaning that just by mere arithmetic, Pletcher has a 50-50 chance of standing in the winner’s circle with one of his horses moments after the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup is completed.

It also means Pletcher has a darn good chance at making the Breeders’ Cup Classic starting gate with any of his runners, as the Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “win-and-you’re-in” qualifying race.

Beyond the simple math, at least two of Pletcher’s runners serve as a genuine threat to win: Dynamic One, winner of the Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park, at this same distance; and Americanrevolution, the 2021 Cigar Mile winner who ran a strong second in the Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs earlier this year.

The other two Pletcher runners are Keepmeinmind, who won a Saratoga allowance race off a long layoff; and Untreated, who finished third behind Dynamic One in the Suburban.

Two of the four non-Pletcher horses could defy the statistical odds and hit the wire first: First Captain, who won the Pimlico Special before his second-place Suburban effort; and Olympiad, a disappointing fourth in the Whitney Stakes who had won his first five starts in 2022.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup
Saturday, Sept. 3
Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs, NY
Purse: $1 million (Breeders’ Cup Classic berth to winner)
Distance: 1 1/4 Miles on dirt
Conditions: Three-year-old horses and up
Television: NBC (coverage from 4:30-6 p.m.)

The field

Odds via New York Racing Association

Analysis and picks

We’ve been running hot as Saratoga draws to a close, having nailed the trifecta in the Alabama and a boxed exacta in the Travers with our most recent picks, so let’s see how we do at the meet’s final big stakes race for older horses.

Unlike the last two stakes, however, there’s no standout horse in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Olympiad has the resume to be a morning-line favorite, but his last outing in the Whitney Stakes was brutal and without excuses. Dynamic One looked tenacious in his Suburban Stakes win, but the race itself wasn’t all that fast — he only got a 98 Beyer speed figure for the victory. Americanrevolution was scratched out of the Whitney Stakes and figures to be fresh and ready to go for this one, but like Olympiad, he’s never been beyond nine furlongs in his career. 

There’s also a lack of pace here, which bodes well for Tax, the lone front-runner. He’s lightly raced; the Jockey Club Gold Cup will be only his third race in the last two years. Tax is also coming off a solid win in a minor July stakes at Delaware Park, but he has a prior history of success at Saratoga, having won the Jim Dandy Stakes as a three-year-old in 2019.

Tax will likely go to the lead and set soft opening fractions, with Kendrick Carmouche hoping he can lull the field to sleep and upset the field wire-to-wire. It’ll be a tough task, given the stalking threats of Olympiad and Americanrevolution. 

Americanrevolution is a nice horse and a Grade 1 winner (last year’s Cigar Mile). While he’s never been beyond nine furlongs, his performance in the Stephen Foster Stakes showed signs that he can get the Jockey Club Gold Cup distance. He also benefits from having red-hot Joel Rosario in the irons; he’s had lots of success in Grade 1 Saratoga stakes races recently, including last weekend’s Travers Stakes win aboard Epicenter.

Perhaps Olympiad’s poor showing in the Whitney Stakes was an aberration and he’ll return to winning form here in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but I’m skeptical. He was well-beaten by Life is Good, and one wonders if Olympiad likes the Saratoga track. 

Dynamic One, off his Suburban Stakes victory, also deserves consideration. He can clearly get the distance; the question is if he can run it faster than the last outing, and faster than everybody else in the field. 

Our picks: Americanrevolution, Tax, Dynamic One