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Jeanne Vance's handicap division leader LEMON DROP KID is the likely favorite in Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. This very important 1 mile prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic will be the centerpiece of a 90-minute Breeders' Cup Preview program from 4:30-6:00 p.m. ET on "NBC Road to the Breeders' Cup."

Lemon Drop Kid was to have faced off against Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus on Saturday, but that clash will have to wait for the Classic at Churchill Downs. Monday morning, trainer Neil Drysdale revealed to NYRA publicity that the Mr. Prospector colt suffered a minor hoof injury after "he had grabbed himself playing a couple of days ago" and will skip the Gold Cup.

However, Drysdale was confident that the injury would not affect his plans to run in the Classic. "Better safe than sorry. We'll give him three days off and ship to Kentucky on the (Oct.) 16th as scheduled. We ran in the Jerome to give us plenty of time just in case of a minor setback. This is all within the realm of the plan and why we started early."

While Fusaichi Pegasus was sidelined all summer, 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid was posting four consecutive major stakes victories in New York. Trained by F.S. (Scotty) Schulhofer, the son of Kingmambo had swept the Brooklyn and Suburban handicaps at Belmont, the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and the Woodward Stakes last out at Belmont on Sept. 16.

While most of the attention will focus on Lemon Drop Kid in the Gold Cup, he faces some formidable opponents in the Gold Cup. Rudlein Stable and William Clifton, Jr.'s 6-year-old BEHRENS took Lemon Drop Kid to the wire in the Woodward after a furious duel, beaten only a head.

Trained by H. James Bond, Behrens has earned over $4.5 million from only 26 career starts and the son of Pleasant Colony has ranked among the nation's best for several years. His fine performance in the Woodward indicates he may be on his best game at the right time of year.

Also expected to start are Tracy Farmer's Travers runner-up ALBERT THE GREAT; Juddmonte Farm's SKIMMING, winner of the Pacific Classic; and Gatsas Stable's GANDER, a good third in the Woodward, beaten less than a length for it all.

Another highlight on the Belmont's Breeders' Cup Preview program will be the anticipated first meeting between Aaron and Marie Jones' Brazilian-bred RIBOLETTA and John Oxley's BEAUTIFUL PLEASURE in the $750,000 Beldame at 1 1/8 miles.

In the Ruffian Handicap on Woodward Day, Riboletta invaded from California and put on a show to score by 7 lengths, the 5-year-old mare's fifth straight major stakes victory for trainer Eduardo Inda. The daughter of Roi Normand is not currently eligible for the Breeders' Cup but her connections have indicated they are likely to supplement to the Distaff, or possibly even the Classic, with another top performance Saturday.

Beautiful Pleasure appears to be back at her best going into the Beldame after her commanding victory over rival Heritage of Gold in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Trained by John Ward, Beautiful Pleasure sealed an Eclipse Award campaign in winning the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Gulfstream last fall.

Also featured on the NBC telecast from Belmont will be the $500,000 Champagne Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. Leading contenders include CITY ZIP, POINT GIVEN, TRAILOFTHEFOX, YONAGUSKA, SCORPION, SAINT VERRE and A.P. VALENTINE.


Three major Breeders' Cup preview races, two from Keeneland and another from Woodbine in Canada, will highlight one-hour programs Saturday and Sunday on ESPN as the "NTRA Racing to the Breeders' Cup" series winds down with three weeks to go to the Championship.

Saturday's show from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET will focus on the $500,000 Three Chimneys Spinster Stakes at Keeneland, a 1 1/8 miles test for fillies and mares that has marked the final prep for seven Breeders' Cup Distaff winners, beginning with Princess Rooney in 1984.

Jack Garey's 5-year-old HERITAGE OF GOLD should be a strong favorite to add to her status as a division leader with two victories over Beautiful Pleasure this season behind her. Trained by Tom Amoss, the daughter of Gold Legend was third behind Beautiful Pleasure in last year's Distaff as a longshot, but likely will be one of the favorites at Churchill Downs with a convincing score in the Spinster.

Sunday's program on ESPN2 from 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET will feature renewals of the $400,000 Walmac International Alcibiades Stakes from Keeneland and the $1.5 million Canadian International from Woodbine, key previews of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Breeders' Cup Turf, respectively.





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