Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM

At the Gate - Saturday

It does not get much better than today where we have seven Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races andseveral other contests that are likely to produce starters for the two-day championship event which is now just over a month away.
We have four Win and You’re In races at Santa Anita this afternoon, three at Belmont Park, and there are a couple of stakes later tonight that serve as Breeders’ Cup preps. I have them all covered in today’s Best Plays Report.
The most intriguing race today for me is the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park. Diversify is the defending champ and the 4-5 morning line favorite.
It is not often we have a Grade 1 race on dirt where three of the contenders in the race have done most of their best work overseas.
We have Gronkowski, Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn taking on the short-priced favorite. Which of the three has the best shot?
I was very impressed with the runner up finish by Gronkowski in the Belmont Stakes (G1). So much so, I was yelling “That’s Gronkowski, that’s Gronkowski!” as Justify was making history.
I thought for sure he was going to fire in the Travers (G1) and he came up empty in an eighth-place finish, beaten 13 ¾ lengths.
Diversify looks tough but with Chad Brown calling the shots I have to give Gronk one more shot to score this afternoon.
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My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 12 strongest plays from Belmont Park, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs.
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Here is the opener from Belmont Park to get the day off to a good start:
BEL Race 1 Md Sp Wt (12:30 ET)
#7 Beach Front   8-5
#9 Qian B C   3-1
#10 Ro Jo   5-1
#8 Gray's Image   9-2
Analysis: Beach Front was sent off as the betting favorite in his debut for the Englehart barn and just missed. The colt stalked the early pace, came a good move and grabbed a short lead and missed by just a neck. Th colt is out of a Belong to Me mare, her first foal to race. The barn is 20% winners (with a +ROI) with second out maidens. The colt does not need to move forward much off his debut effort to pick up his diploma here.
Qian B C adds blinkers here for his third career outing. He was fifth in his debut, having to checked in traffic nearing the 3/8's, then moved forward last out rallying to finish third. Blinkers are added here for the Baker barn and another move forward puts him right in the mix in this spot. He is out of a Strategic Prince mare that has dropped one other foal to race, no winners to date.
WIN: #7 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 7,9 / 7,8,9,10
TRI: 7,9 / 7,8,9,10 / 2,7,8,9,10
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Belmont Park:
BEL Race 10 The Jockey Club Gold Cup G1 (5:50 ET)
#2 Gronkowski   4-1
#6 Diversify   4-5
#3 Mendelssohn   7-2
#8 Thunder Snow   6-1
Analysis: Gronkowski appears to have the best shot of beating the chalk in here. This guy really turned some heads with a strong late rally to finish second to Justify in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at 24-1, coming up 1 3/4 lengths shy of stopping a Triple Crown. It was his first start since landing in the Chad Brown barn. He then went to the Travers where he went backwards, checking in eighth and never getting into the mix. The colt returns to the Belmont Park surface and has worked well since his last outing and he is in the right barn with Chad Brown. His running style really does not suit the way this race sets up. He needs a couple of these runners, namely Carlino and Mendelssohn to run with Diversify early to set things up for him. The colt was closer to the pace in several of his starts overseas including the Novice Stakes at Newcastle over the all-weather where he went gate to wire, so perhaps Ortiz can have him a bit closer here.
Diversify wired the field in the Whitney (G1) in the slop last out and matched up his career top Beyer of 110 that he earned two back in the Suburban (G2). In his last start he did it over a racing strip that was kind to outside stalkers and closers that day. The Violette trainee has two trips at today's 1 1/4 miles and he won them both, this race last year and the Suburban two back. He returns to his favorite surface where he has won six of his eight trips with two seconds. If he does not get pace pressure early he will prove very tough to catch. However, he does face a solid group here and tough to settle on his 4-5 morning line.
Mendelssohn has bounced back from his 20th place finish in the Run for the Roses with a couple of decent efforts. He was third in the Dwyer (G3) two back going a mile here and last out set the early fractions and was no match for Catholic Boy last out in the Travers (G1), beaten four lengths while a length ahead of Bravazo. His 18 1/2 length tour de force in the UAE Derby (G2) back in March was aided by a racing strip that was kind to speed that evening. The O'Brien trainee figures to be in a good spot sitting just off the pace and likely gets a good trip here with Moore in to ride.
WIN: #2 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 2,6 / 2,3,6,8
TRI: 2,6 / 2,3,6,8 / 2,3,6,7,8
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Santa Anita:
SA Race 10 The Rodeo Drive G1 (4:41 PT)
#8 Cambodia   9-5
#7 Sophie P   8-1
#6 Vasilika   7-2
#1 Paved   8-1
Analysis: Cambodia raced near the back of the pack early and mounted a good late rally to finish in the runner up spot last out in the John C. Mabee (G2), coming up 1 1/2 lengths short as the beaten favorite. She won the Yellow Ribbon 'Cap (G2) two back off a two-month break, and this will be her first test at 1 1/4 miles. She won the Mabee last year and ran a good third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) which is run at Del Mar at nine furlongs. She has the pedigree to handle the distance and should get some pace to run at here.
Sophie P exits the Mabee where she got a ground saving trip but didn't have enough punch left late in a fifth-place finish, beaten four lengths. Two back she made a mild late run to finish third in the Yellow Ribbon, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by our top pick. She picked up a Grade 1 win over the turf here this spring winning the Gamely at 14-1 in her second start since landing in the U.S. She has a second in three trips at this distance, all overseas and looks as if the extra ground in this spot will suit her. She offers decent value if she goes off near her 8-1 morning line.
Vasilika has won five of her six trips over the turf here including winning the Mabee at 4-1 last out over our top pick. Hollendorfer claimed her for just $40,000 and she ran for $32,000 last November. She has now reeled off six in a row and is a neck short of coming in here riding a nine-race winning streak. She does not have a start at 1 1/4 miles and looks as if she is going to be a short price in this spot.
WIN: #8 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 7,8 / 1,6,7,8
TRI: 7,8 / 1,6,7,8 / 1,4,6,7,8
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Churchill Downs:
CD Race 9 The Lukas Classic G3 (10:11 ET)
#8 Breaking Lucky   6-1
#6 Mind Your Biscuits   1-1
#1 Honorable Duty   5-2
#7 Term of Art   10-1
Analysis: Breaking Lucky chased the early pace and weakened to finish third last out in his first go off a 11-month layoff. He stretches out to a route here for the Weaver barn. This guy was 0 for 6 last year but but he was only beaten a neck in the New Orleans Hcp (G2) and was third in the Whitney (G1) last summer. Weaver is 29% winners with runners making their second start off a +180-day layoff and Santana picks up the call.
Mind Your Biscuits stalked the early pace and finished up well for the runner up spot in the Whitney (G1) last out in the slop over a racing strip that was kind to outside stalkers and closers. Diversify runs earlier today at Belmont Park. Two back going a one turn mile he was beaten just a nose in the Met Mile (G1). Can he get nine furlongs? he did not have much of a shot of catching the loose on the lead winner last out and this group he should be able to handle. However, at such a short price we will take a small stab we can beat him for the top spot.
WIN: #8 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 6,8 / 1,6,7,8
TRI: 6,8 / 1,6,7,8 / 1,4,6,7,8
Live Longshots:
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.
Belmont Park
R4: #7 Fed Fever   8-1
R5: #12 Catch a Bid   8-1
R5: #2 Sweeping In   10-1
R6: #5 Ponto Scheme   12-1
R7: #5 Silver Ride   8-1
R7: #7 Still Krz   15-1
Good luck today!

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