Effinex, Hoppertunity square off in Jockey Club Gold Cup

The Grade I, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup is the highlight of “Super Saturday” at Belmont Park, which features a total of seven stakes on an 11-race card. The Gold Cup goes as the 10th race on the program with an approximate post time of 5:23 p.m. EST. Be sure to get involved in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game after handicapping this card!

#6 EFFINEX (7-5, morning-line favorite) retains the services of Mike Smith as he looks to rebound off a dull effort in the Whitney at Saratoga. EFFINEX is now 0-for-3 at “the Spa” but could easily atone in the Gold Cup at Belmont, where he is 3-for-9 lifetime with three additional ITM finishes.

However, EFFINEX is far from a “slam dunk” in this one. #3 HOPPERTUNITY (7-2), who was closing in but just missed beating EFFINEX in last year’s Clark Handicap, ships east to Belmont for the first time in his career. He frequently picks up small shares in big races like this; he was even third in the Dubai World Cup behind the brilliant California Chrome, whom he also finished behind in the Pacific Classic. HOPPERTUNITY often gets knocked because he doesn’t win that often (5-for-21 lifetime) but he’s earned nearly $3 million by running hard every time he’s on the track. Bob Baffert names John Velazquez to ride this upset candidate.

#2 MUBTAAHIJ (8-5) will take plenty of support but had no excuse hanging to Shaman Ghost in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. However, MUBTAAHIJ was a good third (and was arguably best) in Belmont’s Suburban Handicap two starts ago. He can hit the board today with his best effort. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the call on this Kiaran McLaughlin trainee once more.

Rain could potentially affect this race. If the track becomes muddy, HOPPERTUNITY would stand an even better chance of beating EFFINEX. HOPPERTUNITY won the 2014 Rebel Stakes over a muddy strip at Oaklawn, while EFFINEX ran poorly and settled for third in last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup on a sloppy track.

The play: $3 exacta box 3/6, $4 win 3 ($10)

DFJ analysis: John Velazquez ($10,500) has a bunch of good mounts at Belmont this Saturday. In addition to HOPPERTUNITY, Velazquez will pilot Tommy Macho in the Kelso, Green Mask in the Turf Sprint, Annals of Time in the Hill Prince, and favored Syndergaard in the Champagne.

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