Olympiad earns elusive Grade 1 victory in $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup
by Ryan Martin
All year long, Olympiad had displayed capabilities as a force to be reckoned with in the older horse division with four graded stakes victories against quality company. On Saturday, the 4-year-old son of Speightstown made an even stronger case for himself, passing his first 10-furlong test with aplomb against six other graded stakes winners and capturing his first Grade 1 victory in the 104th renewal of the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and owned by Grandview Equine, LNJ Foxwoods and Cheyenne Stables, Olympiad captured the Grade 3 Mineshaft on February 19 and Grade 2 New Orleans Classic on March 26 at Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots before securing triumphs in Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Alysheba on May 6 and Grade 2 Stephen Foster on July 2. He entered the Jockey Club Gold Cup off his lone defeat this year when a distant fourth behind fellow older horse division stalwart Life Is Good in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 6 at the Spa.
“It’s gratifying to see him come back,” said Mott, who captured previous runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Hall of Famer Cigar , Flat Out , and Ron the Greek . “The [performance] the other day was almost too bad to be true considering the form he had been in the previous five races. It was just good to see him bounce back. He’s a Grade 1 winner, he’s won six out of seven races this year and he’s got a pretty good record for himself.”
In capturing the Jockey Club Gold Cup – a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event for 3-year-olds and upward – Olympiad earned an automatic entry into the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5 at Keeneland. He added to his qualifying scores after capturing the Stephen Foster, which also is a “Win And You’re In” qualifying race.
Olympiad, breaking from post 2 under Junior Alvarado, utilized the similar stalk-and-pounce technique that was used in his five previous wins this year and sat one length off an easy pace in second, while three-time graded stakes winner Tax established command into the first turn through an opening quarter-mile in 24.54 seconds over the fast main track. Positions remained unchanged through a half-mile in 49.70, with Olympiad right off the flank of Tax and Americanrevolution in third. Alvarado began calling on Olympiad as Tax continued to lead through three-quarters in 1:13.47, and matched strides with the frontrunner around the far turn with Americanrevolution in pursuit to his outside.
At the top of the stretch, Olympiad was the one to catch with Americanrevolution still trying hard in second. But Olympiad had plenty in reserve to keep the reigning New York-Bred Horse of the Year at bay, crossing the finish line a two-length winner in a final time of 2:02.11. Americanrevolution finished another 1 3/4 lengths ahead of the late-charging dual graded stakes winner First Captain.
Completing the order of finish were Untreated, Keepmeinmind, Dynamic One, Chess Chief and Tax.
Alvarado, the pilot in all of Olympiad’s seven starts this year, said he was pleased to see his charge make amends after the lackluster Whitney effort.
“We're still scratching our heads to be honest. He just didn't run his race last time. I would've been OK if he ran his race last time and just got beat as long as I knew he was running his race, but there was nothing from him last time,” Alvarado said. “I remember telling Billy, 'by the five-eighths pole, I wanted to jump off and reset the race.' I knew that wasn't him. I'm so happy today he redeemed himself. He showed up. He's the horse we always thought and we’re going with a win into the Breeders' Cup.”
Mott noted the difference in Olympiad’s demeanor in the paddock compared to his Whitney appearance.
“After we put the saddle on him, he was walking around on his toes. He was a little quiet the other day when it was so hot – he kind of had his head down a little bit and looked a little too quiet. I think everyone was moving a little slow,” Mott recalled. “But today, he looked like he had a little extra energy and like he had a little extra bounce in his step just before we put the jocks on. He looked good.”
Alvarado said the distance was never of concern.
“The only question was [the last race], because I was so confused why he ran like that last time without putting any effort when he always does,” Alvarado said. “Even when he got beat when he was a maiden and then the layoff, he always put in a good effort on this track. He ran today like I always thought he could and it was unbelievable. The race set up, he puts himself in a great spot all the time and makes your job very easy. That was great today.”
Olympiad, who returned $5.40 for a $2 win bet, was bred in Kentucky by Emory Hamilton and was bought for $700,000 by Solis-Litt Bloodstock at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Gainesway. He is out of the graded stakes-placed Medaglia d’Oro mare Tokyo Time – a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Hungry Island.
Banking $535,000 in victory, Olympiad brought his lifetime bankroll just past the $2 million mark and now brags a consistent 12-8-1-1 record having never finished worse than fourth.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher saddled four contenders in the Jockey Club Gold Cup including runner-up Americanrevolution who entered the race as the lone Grade 1-winner in the field, boasting a win in last year’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct.
The Hall of Fame conditioner expressed encouragement in Americanrevolution’s first start going ten furlongs.
“He got stuck out there three-wide all the way around there. Olympiad got a jump on him at the quarter pole and he was playing catch up from there,” Pletcher said. “He kept grinding away. I think he saw out the mile and a quarter no problem, he just couldn't quite close the gap that was created at the top of the stretch."
Pletcher also sent out Untreated, Keepmeinmind, and Dynamic One, and said the latter two were compromised by a lack of pace.
“He [Keepmeinmind] had a pretty wide trip. For him and Dynamic One, they were last and next to last turning up the backside and they went 13 and change,” Pletcher said. “That was my biggest concern, not really much pace on paper, and it unfolded that way and created an advantage for the horses up close.”
As far as Breeders’ Cup Classic aspirations are concerned, Pletcher said both Americanrevolution and Dynamic One could very well be legitimate contenders, pointing out the latter’s 10-furlong win in the last out Grade 2 Suburban on July 9 at Belmont Park.
“We'll see what we do between now and then,” Pletcher said. “From what we saw in the Suburban, Dynamic One, in a different scenario, could fit. I think Americanrevolution showed today that a mile and a quarter is within his range.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 12-race card featuring the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway in Race 11. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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