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Oct 06, 2006

Bernardini heads Jockey Club Gold Cup


Elmont, NY (Sports Network) - Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini will face older horses on Saturday for the first time in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. The 1 1/4 mile race is major prep event for the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 4 at Churchill Downs.

Owned by Darley Stable, Bernardini is coming off a commanding win in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The three-year-old colt has won five straight, including four stakes races, since beginning his career in January.

Bernardini is trained by Tom Albertrani and ridden by Javier Castellano. He will start from the inside post in the four horse field. This is the smallest Gold Cup field in 18 years. Bernardini has earned more than $1.6 million in his six starts.

"He's doing as well as he was going into the Travers," said Albertrani. "He’s ready to go and has given us every indication that he is as ready as he was for the Travers.

"I think that with every race, this horse has matured mentally, and physically, he looks so well. With every race, starting with the Preakness, he has developed and gets better and better. He is just a delight to be around. He's very professional, very easy to handle."

The top challenger to Bernardini was expected to be Whitney Handicap winner Invasor. However, the four-year-old came down with an elevated temperature last week and missed some training. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin decided it would be best to skip the Gold Cup and train Invasor up to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"He had a 103 temperature Thursday," McLaughlin explained. "We pulled blood and his white count was elevated. We treated him, walked him yesterday, took more blood and that blood came back perfect."

"The timing of this is very inopportune," McLaughlin said. "We were really looking forward to facing Bernardini and it would have been a great race. We could try to rush a work into him to make the race, but we'd hate to risk him being sick again."

Albertrani is both unhappy that Invasor will not run and pleased Bernardini will not have to face the older colt.

"Naturally, by losing a horse that I thought was the one to beat and a horse I had a lot of respect for in Invasor means one less to worry about," Albertrani said. "If Bernardini was to beat him, and I won't say what the outcome would have been, it would have boosted Bernardini status.

"If Bernardini just shows up with his game from the last three or four races, someone is going to have to be on his A-game to beat him. He showed in the Preakness that he doesn't have to be on the lead. He makes his own pace. He is very versatile."

Bernardini has been made the overwhelming 1-2 morning line favorite.

Coming in from Ireland is 2-1 second choice Dylan Thomas. The Irish Derby winner will break post 2 with John Velazquez in the saddle.

Brooklyn Handicap winner Wanderin Boy, with jockey Edgar Prado, will start from post 3. Trained by Nick Zito, Wanderin Boy is 5-1 in the program.

Zito also has 15-1 longshot Andromeda's Hero starting from the outside post. Last year's Belmont Stakes runner-up will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez.

The Gold Cup will be televised on ESPN2 with a post-time of 6 p.m. (et).

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