Ron the Greek takes Jockey Club Gold Cup

by MIKE FARRELL (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ron the Greek pulled a 21-1 upset on Saturday in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont Park.

Shooting through a huge opening on the rail at the top of stretch, Ron the Greek sprinted away from Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice to a decisive 6 3/4-length victory.

It was a surprising return to form for Ron the Greek, a career winner of $2.7 million who was mired in a 1-for-9 slump.

Jose Lezcano was aboard for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who also finished third in the race with Flat Out, winner of the last two renewals of this race.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup topped a stellar card that included five other stakes races, all with implications for the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 1 and 2 at Santa Anita. With the victory, Ron the Greek earned a spot in the $5 million Classic.

Ron the Greek was an afterthought in a strong lineup that included Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Cross Traffic, winner of the Whitney Invitational.

''Every once in a while, he'll throw one of these,'' Mott said. ''I can't determine when, but he did it today.''

Lezcano gave the 6-year-old a perfect trip and Ron the Greek responded with his ninth win in 29 starts in 1:59.70 for the 1 1/4 miles on the fast track.

''He broke good and seemed like a different horse today,'' Lezcano said. ''I put him in position and when I asked him, he took off and he was gone.''

Lezcano earned two stakes wins on his first day back after he broke his left wrist in a spill at Saratoga. He also was aboard Laughing for a win in the Flower Bowl Invitational.

Ron the Greek paid $44, $17.40 and $7.20. Palace Malace returned $5 and $3.10 while Flat Out, uncoupled in the betting from Ron the Greek, paid $2.50 to show.

Vitoria Olimpica was fourth, followed by Last Gunfighter, Alpha, Cross Traffic and Orb.

''He was going down the backside fine and he just dropped the bit and didn't do any running,'' trainer Shug McGaughey said of Orb. ''It's pretty puzzling.''

In the other stakes: Princess of Sylmar pulled an upset in the $400,000 Beldame Invitational, beating 1-5 favorite Royal Delta by two lengths.

The leader of 3-year-old filly division with victories in Kentucky Oaks and the Alabama Stakes, Princess of Sylmar was the 2-1 second choice in her first race against older rivals.

Javier Castellano was aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher, who captured his fifth Beldame. Princess of Sylmar improved to 8 for 10, paying $6.20 to win. The time was 1:47.93 for the 1 1-8 miles.

Pletcher won again when Graydar scored a front-running victory in the $400,000 Kelso Handicap, holding off Brujo de Olleros by three quarters of a length. Edgar Prado guided the 4-year-old gray colt to his fifth win in six starts. The 4-5 favorite paid $3.80 to win. The time was 1:34.08 for the mile.

Trainer Doug O'Neill shipped in Private Zone from California for a hard-fought win by a neck over Justin Phillip in the $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational. Martin Pedroza was aboard for the six furlongs in 1:08.02. Private Zone paid $9.20 to show.

Laughing beat Tannery by a half-length in the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational for fillies and mares on the turf. Both were trained by Alan Goldberg for owner Richard Santulli.

Little Mike, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner, earned his first win since then in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. Mike Smith was aboard as the 6-year-old gelding trained by Dale Romans snapped a four-race losing streak with a 7-1 upset, holding off Big Blue Kitten by a nose.

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