The Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Classic is all set for Saturday ... check out this preview from our turf-man below!
Named for the celebrated turfwriter who spent his career covering Thoroughbred racing, this races marks an important spot on the calendar. Runners that come through this race might be pointed towards the Breeders' Cup in Del Mar. Last system checks are in order!
As the Belmont October experience continues, J.N. Campbell has an overview of the field…
This year's Joe Hirsch Classic is a Grade 1 affair of the highest order. Intended for 3-yr-olds and up, the 2021 edition includes some strong deep routers who are looking to either notch their 1st G1, or are attempting to add to their haul of "graded glory."
When Saturday rolls around, it will most assuredly be Christophe Clement's excellent distance specialist, Gufo #3, who will command the top of the tote. The 4-yr-old colt by Declaration of War returns to Belmont riding a nice 2-race win streak. His last effort, with regular rider Joel Rosario in the saddle, was a by-a-neck score in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. That Grade 1 victory earned him a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf, and now Clement is obviously looking for a "tune-up" for his accomplished runner before sending him to Del Mar. He does not have to win this race, but knowing these connections, they will do more than just circumvent the oval.
When it comes to countering this heavy-favorite, there are few turfers that can match the experience of Brad Cox's Arklow #2. One of his senior stable staff, this 7-yr-old for Donegal is almost over $3 million in earnings, and he has the capability to eclipse that figure. Lately though (@Mnmth/DMR/KD), he does not seem to have his normal fastball. Age and fitness might be catching up with him, and this race could be his chance to get back on track. Maybe Jose Lezcano can put together a ride that will get him into the right position towards the end of this contest ...
When it comes to who is most intriguing, I am pretty interested to see how Aidan O'Brien's 5-yr-old by Galileo reacts in what will be his 2nd attempt on this side of the Atlantic. I thought last time in the Sword Dancer, super jockey Ryan Moore made all the wrong moves with Japan #7. Instead of "settling" his mount early, he seemed overly aggressive in the early stages of the race. In other words ... he rode him the complete opposite of the way he was meant to be ridden. Hopefully, replacement Wayne Lordan, an experienced European pilot, will understand what needs to be done. This entry has a massive late turn-of-foot, and that can be a powerful ally against the presumptive favorite.
It would not be a NYRA "G1" without the presence of Mr. Chad Brown. His uncoupled approach is to enter more than 1 runner in a situation like this one. Serve the King #1 and Rockemperor #4 appear to be 2 runners with very different backgrounds, but they have Brown's battle plan in hand. I would be inclined to back the latter more so than the former. Owned by the excellent team of Madaket and Dubb, this 5-yr-old by Holy Roman Emperor, as we like to say in sports, is due. His recent attempts speak to a budding class schedule, and that means that at some point, he is going to break through with a signature win. That time is coming, as Javier Castellano takes the mount for the 1st time. Personally, I like his potential price, and his chances come Saturday.
Rounding out this solid field of 7 is Mike Maker's Cross Border #5 and Bill Mott's Channel Maker #6. Both of these 7-yr-olds are well-traveled ... facing some stiff competition along the way. I would not just write them off because look who is conditioning them ... Still, even with Luis Saez and Manny Franco in the saddle, they might be running against time, like Cox's entry, and that may just be a reason to steer clear of them when it comes time to head to the teller. They makes this field an interesting one ... and this will be a race I will be betting on Saturday.
I am slated to cover the action from Belmont Park this Saturday, so check back late on Friday for all of my selections for this race...