The Grey Wizard Punches Ticket to Melbourne in Belmont Gold Cup

The Grey Wizard (far left) | Sarah Andrew

In a race that is longer than the vast majority of Thoroughbred races in the U.S., Thursday's two-mile GII Belmont Gold Cup S. was won in high style by Eclipse Thoroughbreds and The Estate of Albert Frassetto's The Grey Wizard (Ire) (g, 5, Caravaggio–Fancy {Ire}, by Galileo {Ire}), who waited until the final moments to close with a rush and nab the narrow victory from Champagne Juan (Justify). With the victory, The Grey Wizard annexed the Golden Ticket for the G1 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Nov. 5.

Sent off at 6-1, the grey was unhurried in the early going of the marathon, settling at the back as longshots So High (Nathaniel {Ire}) and Lucky Curlin (Curlin) led the way with last year's winner Siskany (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) several lengths back in third through an opening half in :48.96 and three-quarters in 1:13.94. With the leading pair still in front passing the wire the first time, the favorite narrowed the gap while The Grey Wizard had yet to get the wake-up call at the back. As Champagne Juan took over down the backstretch and Siskany ranged within striking distance, the field began to constrict as The Grey Wizard launched his enthusiastic bid from the back. Turning for home in front, Champagne Juan was just over a length ahead of the looming Limited Liability (Kitten's Joy) as Siskany seemingly began to spin his wheels. Meanwhile, down the center of the track, The Grey Wizard closed like a freight train and was up just in time to get a head victory over Champagne Juan and Limited Liability back in third. Siskany faded to seventh.

“I wasn't surprised he was that far back,” said winning trainer Graham Motion. “They went quick enough. It was a tough post, too. I was a little nervous because Johnny [Velazquez] had to go wide on the turn here. The amazing thing about it is that Al Frassetto, who was the co-owner, he was so passionate about international racing, and he died this week. I wish Al was here. He would have loved this.”

The runner-up was pulled up on the gallop out and was loaded onto an equine ambulance shortly after the race. A spokesman for NYRA shared after the race, “Per NYRA Veterinarian Dr. Sarah Hinchliffe, Champagne Juan sustained a suspensory injury to his right front and is resting comfortably in his stall.”

Champagne Juan's rider Joel Rosario added, “In the gallop-out, I had to ease him up. It looked like he was traveling not the best so I kind of just let him stop himself, you know. I tried to pull him up because he was lame a little bit, just tried and wanted to make sure he was fine.”

Lightly raced last season, the Irish-bred winner recorded allowance victories at Santa Anita in January and later at Keeneland in April. Second in this race behind Siskany (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) at Belmont last June, he rounded out the season with an eighth-place finish in the 1 3/8-mile GII Bowling Green S. at this venue in late July. Sent off at 11-1 for his 2024 bow, The Grey Wizard was a flat ninth in Keeneland's 1 1/2-mile GII Elkhorn S. Apr. 20 before finishing an improved third last time out in the GIII Louisville S. at Churchill May 18.

Handle for Thursday, the first day of the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and the first time it was held at Saratoga, was $18,168,565. The previous record for the Thursday prior to the GI Belmont S. at Belmont Park was $10,309,890, set in 2017.

Pedigree Notes:

The Belmont Gold Cup winner is the 11th group or graded winner worldwide from 17 black-type winners for English and Irish Group 1 winner Caravaggio, who sends his fourth crop of 2-year-olds to the races this year. Caravaggio also saw a daughter have success over this course just last year when Whitebeam (GB) won the GI Diana S. The Scat Daddy stallion spent his first few years at Coolmore Ireland before transferring to the organization's Ashford Stud in Kentucky. He was acquired by the Japanese Bloodstock Breeders Association in late 2022 and has stood the last two seasons in Japan.

The Grey Wizard is one of four Caravaggio stakes winners out of a Galileo (Ire) mare and one of 332 out of a daughter of that late Coolmore stallion. His unraced dam, who is out of Irish GSW Danehill Music (Ire), has also produced English MSW & MGSP Fancy Man (Ire) (Pride Of Dubai {Aus}). Her most recent reported foal is 2-year-old colt New York Minute (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who sold to A.C. Elliott, agent at the 2023 Goffs Orby sale for €400,000.

Thursday, Saratoga
BELMONT GOLD CUP S.-GII, $250,000, Saratoga, 6-6, 4yo/up, 2mT, 3:18.35, fm.
1–THE GREY WIZARD (IRE), 118, g, 5, by Caravaggio
                1st Dam: Fancy (Ire), by Galileo (Ire)
                2nd Dam: Danehill Music (Ire), by Danehill Dancer (Ire)
                3rd Dam: Tuesday Morning (Ire), by Sadler's Wells
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. (£78,000 Ylg
'20 GOFOR). O-Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and The Estate
of Albert Frassetto; B-Longfield Stud (IRE); T-H. Graham
Motion; J-John R. Velazquez. $137,500. Lifetime Record:
15-4-4-1, $573,531. *Set new course record. **1/2 to Fancy
Man (Ire) (Pride Of Dubai {Aus}), SW-Aus, MSW & MGSP-Eng,
$260,973. Werk Nick Rating: A++.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Champagne Juan, 118, c, 4, Justify–Well Monied, by Maria's
Mon. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE. ($300,000
Wlg '20 FTKNOV; $500,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-R.T Racing
Stable; B-Newstead Corp (KY); T-Christophe Clement. $50,000.
3–Limited Liability, 118, g, 5, Kitten's Joy–Hold Harmless,
by Blame. O/B-Stuart S. Janney, III LLC (KY); T-Claude R.
McGaughey III. $30,000.
Margins: HD, HD, 3 1/4. Odds: 6.20, 4.70, 11.60.
Also Ran: Really Good, Six Minus, Pioneering Spirit, Siskany (GB), Cibolian, Lucky Curlin, So High (GB). Scratched: Costa Terra, Dai Vernon, Sports Editor, Starting Over.
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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