Tonalist loped along Belmont Park's long backstretch ninth of 11 horses, which worried many who made him the 3-1 favorite in Saturday's $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup. Trainer Christophe Clement said he wasn't concerned. For the first time since his debut last November, Tonalist wasn't wearing blinkers, so Clement wasn't expecting his usual stalking trip.
His confidence rose as Joel Rosario moved the Belmont Stakes winner into third after a mile, 1 1/2 lengths behind 52-1 shot Long River and Moreno. The transplanted Frenchman had a few seconds of stress in the final furlong, when Rosario had to check briefly along the inside. Then Tonalist showed his courage and class, moving off the rail to split Long River and runner-up Zivo inside the sixteenth pole to draw off by 1 3/4 lengths. With a clean trip, the margin would have been doubled.
"He got through and we got lucky," Clement said. "A great ride; Joel is just so laid back. He [Tonalist] was always in his space, always in his stride. He's more mature and doesn't need the blinkers anymore."
Clement was pleased when he saw the half-mile fraction of 47.42 seconds set by 24-1 Big Cazanova. "They were going fast enough for them to come back," he said. "From the three-eighths pole, I could see we were going very well. The bottom line is, he's a very good horse."
Tonalist is 3-for-3 at Belmont after rebounding from defeats at Saratoga in the Jim Dandy (second) and Travers (third). He ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.12 and paid $8.10 for his fourth win in eight career starts. He earned $600,000, raising his total to $1,802,000 for Robert Evans.
The race was marred by a spill involving Rajiv Maragh, whom Travers champion Wicked Strong unseated midway down the backstretch. Wicked Strong had no room to maneuver after Moreno, under Junior Alvarado, veered left in front of him and cut him off, and the colt clipped heels with the Whitney winner. Maragh stayed on for a few strides before landing hard.
John Durso Jr., New York Racing Association director of communications, said Maragh injured his right arm and was taken to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. He reportedly was alert and conscious.
Moreno was disqualified from fourth and placed ninth behind Micromanage, who was eased, and Wicked Strong. Alvarado likely faces a suspension.
The incident dramatized racing's violent reversals of fortune. In the previous race, Maragh won the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Main Sequence ($5.90). An hour after pocketing 10 percent of the $360,000 winner's share, he was in an ambulance.
Since arriving from France in 1991, Clement, 48, has been considered a turf specialist. He was asked, tongue in cheek, if that was still accurate. "I've won the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Belmont Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup," he said, smiling. "What more do you want me to do?"
Notes & quotes: Trainer Rudy Rodriguez won the Grade II Kelso with Vyjack ($21.20) and the Grade I Beldame by 8 1/4 lengths with Belle Gallantey ($11.40) . . . Sprinter Private Zone ($11.80) repeated in the Grade I Vosburgh . . . Stephanie's Kitten ($4.40) took the Grade I Flower Bowl . . . Undefeated 3-year-old star Shared Belief overcame a very wide trip to win Santa Anita's Awesome Again Stakes in a photo finish.