Blame, Rail Trip Go for the Gold at Belmont

by Greg Melikov

posted on September 30, 2010 in General Discussion, Other Events | No Comments >>

Belmont Park LogoThe 93rd Jockey Club Gold Cup could be a two-horse race on Saturday, as two millionaires clash in the Grade 1 at Belmont in a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6.

Blame, with more than $1.5 million in the bank, is gunning for his sixth straight stakes victory, after defeating Quality Road by a head in the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 7.

Rail Trip, boasting $1 million-plus in earnings, hopes to rebound from a narrow loss to Awesome Gem in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Blame, the likely favorite in the $750,000 contest, posted a bullet 48 seconds for a half-mile on Monday over the Polytrack at Keeneland, where he trained exceptionally well in September. “He came back nice, we’re on schedule,” trainer Al Stall told the Daily Racing Form.

The 4-year-old son of Arch, never out of the money in 11 starts (8-2-1), is stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time, but Stall said, “We’re dying to run him a mile and a quarter.”

That’s the same distance as the BC Classic at Churchill Downs, where Blame is 3 for 3 in routes. Garrett Gomez, aboard in all three 2010 victories, retains the mount.

Rail Trip, like Blame, will run at Belmont for the first time. However, unlike his rival, this will his first race on dirt. He has only finished off the board once in a dozen starts (8-3-1) at California tracks with varied synthetic surfaces.

The 5-year-old son of Jump Start will run for new connections, switching from the barn of Ron Ellis to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., while jockey Cornelio Velasquez replaces Rafael Bejarano.

Rail Trip on Sept. 22 at Aqueduct, where he trained all month, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 1 /5. Six days earlier, the son of Jump Start cruised the same distance in 1:11 4/5, Dutrow told, “We’re happy with the horse.”

In addition, he said, Rail Trip’s “getting along pretty good with the dirt. We’re not afraid to run him on the dirt. If he likes Belmont and keeps going the way he is now, I’m sure he’s going to run a big race.”

Key contenders in the Gold Cup include Fly Down,┬ámaking his first start against older horses. The 3-year-old went four furlongs in a bullet 46 2/5 on Saratoga’s training track, the quickest of 25 works last Saturday.

“It was very good,” Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito said. “We got what we were looking for.”

Fly Down lost the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 28 by a nose to Afleet Express, who would have renewed their rivalry had it not been for a season-ending injury – a slight tear of the suspensory ligament in his left foreleg.

The eight-horse field includes the Bob Baffert trainee Mythical Power, runner-up to Quality Road in Saratoga’s Woodward on Sept. 4. A half-length further back in third was Tranquil Manner.

Meanwhile, Lookin at Lucky put in his final work for Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, covering five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 over Hollywood Cushion Track on Sunday. “He’s ready,” Baffert said. “I hope he’s ready.”

The son of Smart Strike had been sidelined with by an illness, after winning the Haskell Invitational, that forced him to skip the Travers. Since returning to training, Lookin at Lucky has had four workouts in September.

His main opposition in the Grade 2 at 1 1/8 miles are the top two finishers in the Ohio Derby, Pleasant Prince and Worldly, and Thiskyhasnolimit that captured the Iroquois at Churchill Downs nearly a year ago and captured the Smarty Jones on Sept. 6 at Philadelphia Park.