Bright Future took the lead with a quarter mile to go, then outdueled hard-charging Proxy and won the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup by a head bob on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The 4-year-old Curlin colt ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano earned a fees-paid berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
The thrilling finish had co-owners Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola beaming after the race. As usual, Repole was the wordsmith.
“Todd’s done a great job with this horse,’’ Repole said, referring to trainer Todd Pletcher. “Javier is just lights out. Honestly, for 45, he’s found the Fountain of Youth. He’s having an incredible year just winning everything.”
Sent off at 7-2, Bright Future ($9.50 on a $2 win bet) shook off an eighth-place finish in the Brooklyn (G2) two races back, won an allowance optional claimer by 4 ¾ lengths on July 21 at the Spa and put in a superb effort in the JCGC.
“He wanted that fight down the stretch,’’ Repole said. “He wanted to win it.”
Bright Future, a $350,000 yearling purchase, improved his record to 7-4-0-2 with earnings of $716,940. Castellano, meanwhile, is having quite a year, too. He won the Kentucky Derby (G1) aboard Mage, the Belmont (G1) and the Travers (G1) aboard Arcangelo.
Pletcher said the 1 ½-mile Brooklyn may have been too ambitious for his colt, but after his win at the Spa, he figured the JCGC “was a good spot to try a Grade 1 — and he delivered a big performance.
“In order to go to the next one, he’s going to need to make another move forward. It appears to be pretty wide open, the older horse division. I guess we will learn a little more in California (soon). We’ll see.”
Proxy, trained by Michael Stidham, put in huge closing kick but came up a nose short – the official margin of victory.
“He ran a big race. It was a very good performance for him. I don’t think it was really quick (pace), but it seemed like it was OK for me there,’’ Proxy’s jockey Joel Rosario said. “He was more in the race like he did last time and when he’s like that, he runs better. I was happy where he was. I thought for a second we got it done.”
Tyson was third, followed by Clapton, Duke of Love, Rattle N Roll, Warrior Johny, and Unbridled Bomber.
Other automatic Classic qualifiers include Mustahdof (Juddmonte International), Lemon Pop (February Stakes), White Abarrio (Whitney), Geaux Rocket Ride (Haskell), and West Will Power (Stephen Foster).
A slow pace and a short field of four made it tough on favorite McKulick as Parnac pulled off a gate-to-wire, 1 ¼-length victory over the 2-5 top choice in the Flower Bowl.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the 4-year-old filly earned an automatic fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
Dylan Davis was aboard the winner and followed the game plan to come out running in the 1 3/8-mile Flower Bowl for older fillies and mares.
Sent off at 8-1, Parnac returned a nice $18.40 on a $2 win bet. McKulick was second, Clement’s other entry Amazing Grace was third and Tamarama was fourth.
“I knew the three (Tamarama) was the other speed. She was able to break – inside post really helped us here get dominance for the lead,” Davis said. “The three came up to me, but didn’t really want to continue on, and I was able to take control from there … I was able to pick her up into the last turn, get her running going before they got too close to her, and then she was able to hold them off.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode McKulick, said he was hindered by the slow pace but was reluctant to force the issue with Parnac.
“She put me there. If they run away from me in the first part of the race, if I try to move that’s probably going to be a premature move, I don’t really want to do that, so I just rode my race,” Ortiz said.
Alva Starr rolls in $250,000 Prioress (G2)
Alva Starr broke smartly and was never headed in rolling to an 8 ¾-length victory in the 6-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.
Bred by owner P. Dale Ladner and trainer Brett Brinkman, the filly came into her first graded stakes race off a 6 ¾-length win in the 6-urlong Dashing Beauty at Delaware Park on July 8.
Sent off a 7-2 and ridden by Jose Lezcano, Alva Starr returned $9, with 3-1 favorite Jersey Pearl second and favorite Dazzling Blue third in the five-horse field.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.