Rattle N Roll wasn’t much of a factor in the New Orleans Classic (G2) to kick off his four-year-old campaign, but couldn’t be going into Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga any better. The Kenny McPeek trainee is one of the leading lights in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, the winner of which will receive an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita in November.
Following that season-opening fourth at Fair Grounds, Rattle N Roll rattled off three consecutive victories, in the Ben Ali (G3), Pimlico Special (G3), and Blame (G3). And perhaps he could have used some extra distance in the nine-furlong Stephen Foster (G1), in which he cut his losing margin to a diminishing half-length at the wire.
Proxy, who has blown hot and cold this season, trailed the Foster field of eight, but that sub-par effort was sandwiched between wins in the Oaklawn H. (G2) and Monmouth Cup (G3). The Godolphin homebred showed rare speed in the latter, winning in wire-to-wire fashion.
“He showed some versatility and showed us that he can adapt to the pace whatever it may be,” trainer Mike Stidham said. “Those are things that earlier in his career he wasn’t able to do. It gives us a little more confidence that if things don’t set up the way we expect them, he can change tactics and still run a big race.”
The six other Gold Cup candidates have form to find, on paper at least. Bright Future was eased in his lone stakes attempt to date, the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn (G2) two back, but rebounded with an impressive allowance win over the Saratoga strip on July 21 for Todd Pletcher.
Grade 3 winner Clapton was a distant second behind Charge It in a modest renewal of the Suburban (G2) last out. The Woodbine-based duo of Clapton, a multiple graded winner, and Duke of Love, who has won his last two starts on dirt, offer some longshot appeal for trainer Josie Carroll.
The other Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep on Saturday’s card, the $500,000 Flower Bowl (G2) over 1 3/8 miles on the turf, attracted only four fillies and mares. Betting will center around Grade 1 veteran McKulick, who defeated returning rival Amazing Grace by 2 1/2 lengths in the Glen Falls (G2) earlier in the meet.
Five three-year-old fillies will dash six furlongs in the $250,000 Prioress (G2). Dazzling Blue, who suffered her first loss in four outings to the ill-fated Maple Leaf Mel in the July 8 Victory Ride (G3) is the likely favorite. Others to watch for include Alva Starr, impressive winner of the Dashing Beauty S. at Delaware Park in early July, and the stakes-placed Jersey Pearl, a troubled fifth in the Test (G1) last out.
The $150,000 Harvey Pack S., for older horses going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, is headed by Big Invasion, runner-up in the June 10 Jaipur (G1) prior to an unsuccessful raid at Royal Ascot two weeks later. The other class in the field is Dancing Buck, winner of last season’s Belmont Turf Sprint (G3) but unraced since November.