Digital Age, Spanish Mission tough to split in Jockey Club Derby

The inaugural $1 million Jockey Club Derby highlights opening Saturday at Belmont Park’s fall meet. Nine three-year-old colts will line up at the gate for the 1 1/2-mile turf test, the final leg of the newly-minted Turf Trinity. Post time for the Jockey Club Derby, Race 10 of 11 on the day, is 5:47 p.m. ET.

#8 DIGITAL AGE (5-2, morning-line favorite) has been the victim of some hard luck in both the Belmont Derby and Saratoga Derby, getting clear in the stretch just a bit too late each time. He finished fourth and second, respectively, in those last two races. DIGITAL AGE has a pedigree that suggests he’ll relish the distance increase in the Jockey Club Derby. Javier Castellano takes over as Irad Ortiz Jr. is currently serving a suspension.

#9 SPANISH MISSION (3-1) invades from across the pond for Team Valor and trainer David Simcock. He’s done little wrong since stepping onto the turf course three starts ago, winning a Group III stakes while placing in two other races. SPANISH MISSION’s victory came at 1 5/8-miles, so today’s distance is of little concern. Jamie Spencer flies in for the call.

#1 A THREAD OF BLUE (4-1) is out to prove his Saratoga Derby win was no fluke. He went gate-to-wire in that heat last month over a late-closing DIGITAL AGE. However, A THREAD OF BLUE has a questionable pedigree for this surface and distance combination. He’s best used underneath. Luis Saez has the call for Kiaran McLaughlin.

#5 SAN HUBERTO (10-1), a late-blooming son of Speightstown, has shown decent ability over marathon distances overseas. The speed figures say he could land a share here and he lures Flavien Prat.

The play: $5 exacta box 8/9 ($10)

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