Apparently they can’t write Flat races that are too long for Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss. How much did he love every yard of the 2-mile trip in Friday’s $300,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational? The 2-1 favorite finished in a course-record 3:17.29 on the firm Widener turf.
Da Big Hoss was perfectly handled by Florent Geroux, who had him settled well off the unexpectedly swift tempo established by My Afleet. The front runner posted faster early splits than Photo Call did in the 1 1/4-mile New York (G2) — :24.91, :49.65 and 1:14.17. Only when My Afleet reached the mile in 1:39.83 did he finally turn in a slower fraction than the distaffers.
Those who raced in proximity to the pace paid the price. My Afleet was spent after 1 1/4 miles in 2:05.31, and Belisarius took over while clocking 2:28.98 and 2:54. Twilight Eclipse, who was also forwardly placed, drew alongside entering the homestretch. But West Point Thoroughbreds’ old warhorse had his stamina stretched beyond its limits.
Meanwhile, Geroux produced Da Big Hoss at the right time. Improving his position on the final turn, the son of 1999 Belmont (G1)-winning champion Lemon Drop Kid (and maternal grandson of 1997 Belmont victor Touch Gold) surged clear in the lane.
French invader Now We Can, on the other hand, made his move a little later. Even with the help of a 6-pound weight concession, he couldn’t overcome the tactical disadvantage of conceding first run to Da Big Hoss. Now We Can kept on determinedly to finish just 1 1/2 lengths off the winner, and 3 1/2 lengths clear of the rest.
Twilight Eclipse deserves great credit for hanging onto third, especially as the 123-pound co-highweight along with Da Big Hoss. Fourth-placer Closing Bell carried 8 fewer pounds, and had the luxury of closing from last, and still couldn’t get past the redoubtable Twilight Eclipse. Belisarius was a creditable fifth, while Up With the Birds probably didn’t see out the trip in sixth. The same is probably true of Kaigun (ninth), although he was compromised by racing too close to the early pace as well.
Da Big Hoss just keeps paying dividends on his $50,000 claim last June, and he now ranks as a millionaire with $1,023,936 in earnings from his 19-10-1-3 record. The Belmont Gold Cup marks his fifth stakes victory, following the 2015 John’s Call and Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), the January 30 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) in course-record time at Sam Houston, and the April 23 Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland in his latest.
Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography.