Tonalist wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup, takes aim at BC Classic
by Laura Pugh
It took him five months to do it, but Tonalist finally returned to the winner’s circle with a dominating performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Performing like an even-money favorite should, Tonalist winning the race was about the only occurrence that was predictable during the running of the Gold Cup. When the gates opened Constitution broke alertly, as expected, but Wicked Strong rushed up to fight him for early position. It was only after half a mile had gone by that Wicked Strong relaxed, allowing Constitution to continue to set the early pace.
Tonalist sat off the early antics, but it wasn’t long before John Velazquez sensed the pace was beginning to slow and began to move his mount into contention. Just as he made touch with the front runners, Wicked Strong pounced on Constitution once again. Around the turn the two battled, but when they hit the stretch Wicked Strong surged to the lead.
Wicked Strong’s burst of speed was so explosive that for a moment it looked like he would spring the upset, but only for a moment. Tonalist was still within striking distance and it was then that Johnny V asked the big colt to make his move.
When Tonalist got that signal his acceleration annihilated Wicked Strong, who had no answer for the powerful burst. Into the final sixteenth of a mile Tonalist was merely galloping, frolicking in the sloppy mess.
The win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup guarantees Tonalist a spot in the Breeders Cup Classic. There he will meet an all-star cast, topped by Triple Crown-winning American Pharoah. Thus far Tonalist has not proven the ability to compete with the very best, unless the race is run at Belmont. This isn’t to say he hasn’t run well outside of Belmont, but he has yet to show the same dominance over any other oval.
Can Tonalist show the same devastating turn of foot at Keeneland come October 31? Against a field that will include American Pharoah, Beholder, Honor Code and Liam’s Map, he will need to if he hopes to win the 32nd running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.