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Jimmy Jerkens again will be conflicted in strong Jockey ClubGold Cup

V.E. Day with jockey Javier Castellano up, moves

V.E. Day with jockey Javier Castellano up, moves past Wicked Strong, with jockey Rajiv Maraghto up, to win the Travers Stakes horse race at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Credit: AP

V.E. Day added $67,000, 10 percent of the Travers winner's share, to trainer Jimmy Jerkens' bank account. Eric Guillot said he cashed a win bet on the 19-1 shot for a profit of about $2,000. Strangely, Guillot probably had a more rewarding experience, because he didn't have to deal with mixed emotions. Even at the racetrack, money isn't everything.

Jerkens was conflicted because Magalen O. Bryant's V.E. Day surged late to edge his other horse, Wicked Strong, by a nose. Minutes later, Jerkens said: "It means a lot. But I feel so bad for Wicked Strong, because he ran his guts out. But I'll take it."

Jerkens reflected Tuesday on his Travers exacta. "Wicked Strong's owners [Centennial Farms] were very classy about it, but I'm sure initially it was incredibly frustrating for them, and it was for me also," he said. "Believe me, I was thrilled with the outcome. I felt fantastic on one end, and not so fantastic on the other. But you can't favor one horse over the other when both owners want to run in the same race."

Jerkens will be in the same position Saturday, when he'll saddle 3-year-olds V.E. Day and Wicked Strong in the $1-million, 1¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

"There aren't many options," he said. "I didn't think [last Saturday's] Pennsylvania Derby was the right spot for either of them, and it's right in our backyard."

Jerkens' pair and Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist will have to catch the 4-year-old gelding Moreno, the Whitney winner trained by Guillot. "You think I'm gonna be on the lead Saturday?" the irrepressible Cajun said. "Why would I change? That would be a fatal mistake."

Before the Breeders' Cup arrived in 1984, the Gold Cup often crowned the Horse of the Year. Although no longer an end in itself, it's still among the world's most prestigious races. Its 96th running tops a Super Saturday card featuring four other Grade I events -- the 11/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, 11/4-mile Flower Bowl on grass and 11/8-mile Beldame, both for females, and the 6-furlong Vosburgh -- plus the Grade II Kelso.

Wicked Strong won the Wood Memorial from off the pace but has shown early speed since Jerkens added blinkers before his Jim Dandy victory. "I think he has the ability to be up there with [Moreno]," Guillot said. "I think he'd be the one I'd have to worry about most."

Jerkens said Wicked Strong "probably doesn't" have enough speed to push Moreno hard, and he won't use him as a rabbit for late-running V.E. Day. "If [Moreno] is alone on the lead, you might just have to let it be," he said. "You can't go against a horse's style and expect him to finish."

New York Sports