Is Constitution a Gold Cup horse to believe in?
by Laura Pugh
What to make of Constitution? That should be the major question for today’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). We have seen all five of his competitors race several times this season, so we know what to expect from them. That isn’t the case when it comes to Constitution.
Constitution has show brilliance on occasions, but that brilliance has been stunted by nagging injuries throughout his career. The first occurred after the Florida Derby (G1), a race that had him billed as one of the Kentucky Derby (G1) favorites. That particular injury put him on the sidelines until mid-October. After that he came back with a promising showing in the Clark H. (G1) and then a gritty win in the Donn H. (G1). His runs were so promising he was considered for the Dubai Wrold Cup (G1), but he came out of the Donn injured once again.
We saw Constitution make his return from his latest hiatus in the Bernard Baruch H. (G1), where he met the strength and power of Ironicus. He was fifth that day, in his only start on turf, beaten just under five lengths after setting a very strong pace.
Today Constitution returns to the dirt and will attempt the distance of 10 furlongs for the first time in his career. Last time he returned off an injury, it took Constitution three tries before returning to the winner’s circle. However, he has taken a very different path this time around. After his first injury, he returned with a lackadaisical effort in a Belmont allowance. At no point did he look in control during that race. In the Bernard Baruch he took command immediately, leading by three lengths at the first call, and keeping the lead until just after the mile call. That split was caught in a snappy 1:32.59.
With that in mind, one can easily argue that Constitution got a great deal more from the Bernard Baruch than he did from his Belmont comeback, setting him up for a better effort in his second start back. I have no doubt that race put some pep in Constitution’s step, but the question is how much? Does he have enough to go 10 furlongs at Belmont against Tonalist?
Belmont is known to be a conveyer belt for speed when it is wet, and guess what -- it’s extremely wet. If the strip does indeed mirror a conveyer belt then Constitution will be at an advantage, being he has the best natural speed of any horse in the field. His main obstacle will be contending with the gritty and mud-loving Coach Inge who may want the lead just as much. If that occurs then there are two possible scenarios. 1) Constitution’s lack of foundation catches up to him, and Coach Inge outlasts him. 2) Constitution’s speed is too much for Coach Inge and Constitution kicks clear.
So, what do we make of Constitution? Is he fit enough to run 10 furlongs against those with more fortitude? Will he be aided by the sloppy Belmont strip? How will he handle a challenge from Coach Inge? Hard to say, so I ask you, do you believe in Constitution?
Belmont photo courtesy of Laura Pugh