This Saturday at Belmont Park is the 95th running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which is scheduled to go off at 5:49 ET. The Gold Cup is the tenth race of the day and marks the pinnacle of a big day of graded stakes action. Six graded stakes races are scheduled to be run; The Beldame, The Kelso, The Vosburgh, The Flower Bowl, and the Joe Hirsh Turf Classic, in addition to the aforementioned Gold Cup.
Traditionally the ‘Super Saturday’ card is seen as one of the last major prep days before the Breeders’ Cup, but for fans of thoroughbred racing on the east coast the day is taking on a feel of a consolation Breeders’ Cup. The reason being that for the fourth time in six years the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park in beautiful Arcadia California. The trend is expected to continue in 2014 as Santa Anita is once again scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup. The last time the event was held on the East Coast was in 2007, when Monmouth Park had the unfortunate luck of scheduling the two day card with a two day monsoon. After that, the event has been held out west, with the exception of 2010, and 11′ when it was held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
For east coast fans of horse racing the trade off of guaranteed nice weather has a bitter taste of a bad deal. The reason being that by the time late October rolls around, the track at Santa Anita plays extremely fast. It favors speed on both the dirt and turf. This reduces the handicapping mystery simply to using horses that break well and get to the lead. That west coast ‘run and gun’ style tends to diminish the value of following horses who run at multiple venues during the year. From Gulfstream to Saratoga each track has its own unique feel.
The Breeders’ Cup began in 1984, the inaugural event was held at Hollywood Park, with the plan being to alternate between most of the major tracks around North America. It wasn’t until 2008 and 2009 when the event was held consecutively at the same track, Santa Anita. Before that it moved year after year, mainly from California, to Kentucky and New York, but it also crossed Gulfstream Park in Florida, Arlington Park in Illinois, Woodbine in Canada, Lone Star in Texas, and of course Monmouth in New Jersey. The point being that limiting the one of the biggest days of horse racing to a one dimensional sunbaked track, not only oversimplifies what should be a challenging puzzle, but it greatly reduces itself from outside exposure and isolates its fan base.