Ten Things You Should Know: Jockey Club Gold Cup
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Originally published on Sept 30, 2010

Curlin winning the 2007 Jockey Club Gold Cup over Lawyer Ron
Curlin winning his first Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2007 over Lawyer Ron (NYRA/Adam Coglianese)

1) The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a race run over the oval at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. This year’s edition is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, the winner will qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.

2) It is open to 3-year-olds and up and raced at a distance of 1 1/4 miles

3) The race was run for the first time in 1919 at 1 1/2 miles. From 1921 to 1975 the race was run at a distance of two miles. It was cut back to its original distance of 1 1/2 miles in 1976 and changed to its current distance in 1990.

4) The Jockey Club Gold Cup — prior to the founding of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984 — was a key race for the Horse of the Year award. From 1936 to 1983, nineteen winners of the Jockey Club Gold Cup were also awarded Horse of the Year.

5) Very few races are associated with the performances of a single horse but the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the great Kelso are inextricably tied together. Kelso won an unprecedented five editions of the race from 1960 to 1964.

6) Eleven horses have won the race twice: Mad Hatter (1921-1922), Dark Secret (1933-1934), Nashua (1955-1956), Shuvee (1970-1971), Slew o’ Gold (1983-1984), Creme Fraiche (1986-1987), Skip Away (1996-1997), Curlin (2007-2008), Flat Out (2011-2012) and Tonalist (2014-2015). Only the great Kelso won it more than twice.

7) The 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup included both Affirmed and Seattle Slew in only the second meeting ever between two Triple Crown winners (they also met earlier that year in the Marlboro Cup). In one of the most memorable finishes in the race’s history, Exceller held off a game Seattle Slew for the win. Affirmed finished fifth — losing all chance when his saddle slipped during the race.

8) Five of the eleven American Triple Crown winners also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation, Affirmed). Only Gallant Fox and Citation won it during their 3-year-old seasons; the other three won it as 4-year-olds.

9) In one of the saddest ends in the race’s history, Dark Secret while winning his second Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1934 broke down near the finish line. He was returned to his barn but could not be saved.

10) Jockey Eddie Arcaro won the Jockey Club Gold Cup ten times, the most by any jockey. The leading trainer is Jim Fitzsimmons (the trainer of Dark Secret) who won seven editions of the Gold Cup.

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  • Theresia Muller

    You left Shuvee off the two time winner list.

  • Hi Theresia:

    Thanks for the correction and 20 lashes to me for leaving her off. She actually deserved to be one of the 10 things — a big oversight on my part. The only filly to win the JCGC and, for good measure, she did it twice!


  • When were geldings first allowed in the race? From what I can see from the old charts, it is either 1956 or 1957 ( as the first gelding ran in the 1957 race)

  • Hi Dale:

    If you could not get a definitive answer from the charts or newspaper archives then you might be in for a tough research assignment. I would suggest calling the Keeneland Library — they have the most extensive collection of racing history in the US. If they don’t have the answer, they might be able to point you in the right direction.

    Also, we have a colleague in New York who might be able to help — we will reach out to her and post an answer here if she finds something definitive.

    Good luck,

  • Hi, Dale — from some initial research, it seems that geldings were not permitted to run in major stakes races from 1919 until about 1956. Waiting for official word, but that’s what I’ve been able to turn up.

  • Here’s your answer, Dale, from Allan Carter, the historian at the National Museum of Racing: “Geldings were not eligible to run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1928, 1937, 1938, 1940-1952, 1954 and 1955.”

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