Trainer H. James Bond is eager to see how Prioritize gets on against smart rivals in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park as his charge continues to thrive on the dirt.
Bond suggests Prioritize has a running style that ‘separates the men from the boys’ and is ready to face the likes of Mystic Guide, Danny California, Happy Saver, Plus One Parfait and Tacitus in the Grade 1 Belmont event.
Tacitus (second) and Prioritize (third) clashed last month in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, filling out the places behind Global Campaign.
Eric Cancel was riding for Bond that day, but Luis Saez gets the call in Jockey Club, with the trainer conceding that maybe Prioritize didn’t get the best ride last time.
“I thought Eric tactically might have made a mistake going a little too wide last time,” the trainer said. “It was a short field and I wanted to save some ground, and he got hung out there for a quarter of a mile. When you get beat by a couple of lengths, I just don’t think that’s helpful.”
Prioritize enjoyed a decent three-year-old turf campaign, winning on debut at Gulfstream Park over a mile and repeatedly running good races in defeat afterwards, including in the Grade 2 Hill Prince Stakes.
He returned at four seemingly having lost his desire, struggling in allowance optional claiming races. Bond made a call to try the gelded son of Tizway in a $35,000 claiming contest on the dirt, admitting he’d become ‘discouraged’ with his efforts.
“He just didn’t care to be in the game anymore,” Bond said. “He wasn’t competitive on the grass.
“He’s a gelding. You’ve got to run them where they can win. I dropped him to $35,000, the light went on and the rest is history.”
He’s never been worse than third in four starts since that claiming win and, in his first Grade 1 start, he made up plenty late ground after racing wide to be third behind Global Campaign and Tacitus in the mile-and-a-quarter Woodward.
The way he finished that race gives this trainer plenty of confidence he’ll get the distance at Belmont on Saturday and Bond suggests his never say die attitude in races is an asset ahead of his latest battle with Tacitus.
“I think he’s getting better. He’s one of those horses that just chugs along. He’s a stayer,” added the trainer.
“He’ll get the mile and a quarter. He’ll get a mile and three-eighths,” Bond said. “He keeps running, and he’s a trier. That’s what separates the men from the boys, as they say.”