2021 Jockey Club Gold Cup Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content
By James Scully (TwinSpires.com)
1. FORZA DI ORO (8-5) is an exciting type who will find out where he fits in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at 1 1/4 miles. Moved to Saratoga this year, the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) qualifier marks the first Grade 1 test for the lightly-raced four-year-old, who has won three straight for Bill Mott, including November’s Discovery (G3) at Aqueduct. Forza Di Oro recorded a sharp allowance tally when returning from a lengthy layoff earlier in the meet, generating a field-best 108 Brisnet Speed rating for the three-length decision in the mud, and the chestnut should be forward from the start with regular rider Junior Alvarado. Forza Di Oro doesn’t have to win, but he needs a strong showing to prove he belongs at this level.
2. MAX PLAYER (5-2) enters on the upswing for Steve Asmussen following an upset victory in the July 3 Suburban at Belmont Park. The four-year-old colt placed in the Belmont S. (G1) and Travers (G1) last year, but the 1 1/4-mile Suburban marked his first win in more than 17 months. He showed improved tactical speed, closely pressing the action before surging to edge odds-on Mystic Guide in the latter stages, and Max Player remains eligible to carry his form forward in the Gold Cup. However, the dark bay caught sloppy conditions last time, and Max Player will be asked to back it up over an expected fast track on Saturday.
3. CHESS CHIEF (15-1) broke through at the graded level when rallying for a head decision in the New Orleans Classic (G2) last March, but the five-year-old has not been competitive in three outings since then. He switches back to the main track after a failed turf experiment at Colonial Downs most recently, and Saturday’s projected pace scenario does not favor the confirmed closer. Trainer Dallas Stewart has secured the services of leading rider Luis Saez, but Chess Chief appears up against it.
4. HAPPY SAVER (9-5) rates as a major rebound candidate for Todd Pletcher. The four-year-old colt will be seeking a measure of redemption after his first career loss, a non-threatening third in the Suburban, and he may not have cared for the sloppy oval last time, his first attempt on a wet track. Happy Saver romped over allowance foes in his lone Saratoga appearance last year, and the chestnut promises to show good tactical speed with Irad Ortiz Jr. He merits serious respect in Saturday’s title defense.
5. NIGHT OPS (5-1) has finished second in his last four starts, all against stakes rivals. Most recently, he closed with good energy in the Aug. 6 Alydar S., his first outing at Saratoga, and the five-year-old was flattered when the winning Art Collector came back to easily capture the Charles Town Classic (G2) last weekend. Trainer Brad Cox merits respect in big races, earning his first wins in the Whitney (G1) and Travers (G1) this meet, and Night Ops always tries hard. The class hike and projected pace scenario may prove too difficult to overcome, but another top three placing would be no surprise.
6. FOREWARNED (50-1) has lost 10 straight, and the six-year-old exits a head second in an Ohio-bred stakes at Thistledown. The multiple restricted stakes victor fits well at the state-bred level, but he’s unplaced in his last six attempts against open rivals. An affinity for longer distances is only thing he has going for him, and Forewarned appears overmatched against this competition.