Ron the Greek, dispatched at odds of 21-1, dominated a competitive group in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on Saturday at Belmont Park.Under Jose Lezcano, Ron the Greek won by 6 ¾ lengths over runner-up Palace Malice and third-place finisher Flat Out in the 95th edition of the $1 million event. The victory earned Ron the
Greek a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) as the Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge race.
“You gotta love Ron,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who trains Ron the Greek for Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, Jack Hammer and Gary Barber. “Everybody loves Ron the Greek! This is the Ron the Greek today. This is the same type of race he ran in the Sunshine Millions [in January], the same type of race he ran in California when he won the Santa Anita Handicap. Every once in a while, he’ll throw one of these. I can’t determine when, but he did it today.”
Ron the Greek’s time for 1 ¼ miles was 1:59.70, the fastest running of the Gold Cup since Evening Attire stopped the clock in 1:59.58 in 2002.
“I put him in position, and when I asked him he took off and was gone,” said Lezcano. “He never stopped. It was unbelievable.”
Runner-up Palace Malice finished 1 ¾ lengths in front of 5-2 favorite Flat Out, Ron the Greek’s stablemate who was bidding to become the first horse since Kelso, who won five straight from 1960-64, to win three consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Vitoria Olimpica, at 33-1 the longest shot in the field, finished fourth, and strung out behind him were Last Gunfighter, Alpha, Cross Traffic – who missed the break – and Orb.
“I thought [Palace Malice] ran great,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who also saddled Vitoria Olimpica and Cross Traffic in the Gold Cup. “He showed his 3-year-old form was legit. He ran well against older horses; he beat a lot of nice older horses today. Ron the Greek is one of those horses that on occasion runs a monster race, and today he did.”
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was confounded by the last-place finish of Orb in what was the Derby winner’s worst outing of 2013.
“It’s pretty puzzling,” said McGaughey. “He’d been doing well. He broke good and was sitting in a good position, but at the five-eighths pole, I could see that he dropped the bit, and that was the end of it. He never tried to run after that. I don’t know.”
The win was Ron the Greek’s ninth in 29 starts, including victories in the 2012 Grade 1 Stephen Foster and Santa Anita Handicaps.
“I had a flashback to the race in Florida this winter when he won the Sunshine Millions,” said Mott. “I said, ‘Man, oh, man. He’s up there close to the pace today.’ We didn’t try to plan that. I just told Jose [Lezcano] to let him place himself, the way we always do. He’s old enough – he knows how he wants to run, and he wanted to run big today.”
Ron the Greek returned $44 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the Super Saturday crowd of 10,549 and earned $600,000, pushing his career bankroll to $2,704,691.
NYRA photo by David Alcosser