Outsider Discreet Lover runs down Thunder Snow to win Jockey Club Gold Cup
Belmont: Jockey Club Gold Cup (Grade 1) | 1m2f | 3yo+ | dirt
Longshot Discreet Lover came with a late surge to run down Godolphin’s Thunder Snow to win the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, with Mendelssohn a valiant third after keeping pace with strong early fractions set by the disappointing favourite Diversify.
In the final yards, Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow was straining to reach the wire first under Christophe Soumillon and avenge his only other start in the US – a fiasco when he was pulled up at the start of the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
The Saeed Bin Suroor colt had already rushed past Mendelssohn and favourite Diversify, winner of the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Whitney Stakes this year.
All that stood between him and victory was the fast-closing Discreet Lover, the five-year-old owned and trained by relatively unknown Parx-based trainer Uriah St Lewis, who had just six wins in 41 starts.
Discreet Lover, who was sent off at 45-1 after finishing 12th in the Woodward Stakes in his previous start, caught Thunder Snow to register a neck victory under Manny Franco. The victory gave St Lewis his first top-level victory and his first Breeders' Cup candidate, as the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner earns a free berth to the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 3.
"It's the first Grade 1 for the horse and myself. He did it all," said St Lewis. "I told Manny to take back and make one run. Last time he stayed too close and he didn't have any horse in the stretch. Today we took back and made one run."
The brutal early pace definitely played in Discreet Lover's favour. At the quarter pole, Diversify faded, leaving the Aidan O'Brien-trained Mendelssohn in front with Thunder Snow in pursuit. The Godolphin runner grabbed a short lead with 70 yards to go, but could not fend off Discreet Lover's closing kick.
"I was surprised at the winner," said Bin Suroor. “He surprised me, really. They went too fast early, but I'm happy with the way Thunder Snow ran. He was close to winning, but at least he ran a big race, so I'm happy. We'll take him to the Breeders' Cup Classic now. That was the target, really."
Mendelssohn hung on gamely for third, a length and three-quarters behind Thunder Snow.
Diversify’s jockey Irad Ortiz said: "The track was fast and I had to go harder than usual because Mendelssohn was very quick out of there, and I needed to make the lead. I had to use a lot to make the lead. We just went a little fast."
Also on Saturday
Belmont: Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (Grade 1) | 1m4f | 3yo+ | turf
Channel Maker (Bill Mott/Jose Ortiz) made every yard of the running to score his first success at the top level.
Despite being bustled up in the opening stages by Teodoro (Tom Dascombe/Ryan Moore), who faded to fifth, Channel Maker surged clear rounding the turn for home and had too much for favourite Robert Bruce (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz), who won the Arlington Million last time.
"He was relaxed the whole way around. He had been running well the last three races," said Ortiz. "At the three-eighths pole, he was still pricking his ears, waiting for somebody to come. When we left the five horse [Teodoro], he was waiting for somebody to come and no one came. When I asked him to go, he responded beautifully."
Belmont: Vosburgh Stakes (Grade 1) | 6f | 3yo+ | dirt
It was a stroll in the park for Imperial Hint (Luis Carvajal/Javier Castellano) as he made all to win as the 1-5 favourite and strengthen his position as the one to beat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint next month.
Carvajal said: “We wanted to try to get an easy race before the Breeders’ Cup as a prep, because you don’t really want to go into that race having to run really hard and I was happy the way the field for this race came out.
“I was a little worried at the end, hoping that Javier didn’t hold him back too much, but the track is fast, and I couldn’t ask for anything else from this little horse he was great.”