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Thunder Gulch, Cigar Helping Preview Day Live Up To Its Name

Surprise! Surprise!

First, Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch showed up. Then, defending Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Concern threw his name in the hat.

With Cigar already in, the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday is beginning to look pretty Breeders’ Cuppish, and that’s fitting. It comes on Breeders’ Cup Preview Day at Belmont Park.

“I’m anxious to see what happens,” said Bill Mott, who has saddled Cigar for 10 straight victories since he switched him from grass to dirt last year. “Naturally, I want to come out a winner.”

On Thursday, 51 horses were entered in the six stakes races designed as a preview to the Breeders’ Cup on Oct. 28 at Belmont. Total purse for the six is $2.45 million.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas did not announce until late Monday that he would send Thunder Gulch against Cigar before their much-anticipated Horse of the Year showdown in the Breeders’ Cup. Concern’s entry was not revealed until Thursday morning.

Concern, however, is also entered in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup tonight and is more likely to go in that race unless bad weather forces trainer Dick Small to scratch.

Eight were entered in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Cigar, winner of all eight of his races this year, was made the 1-5 favorite, despite the presence of Thunder Gulch. Cigar will be ridden by Jerry Bailey and start from the No. 6 post position.

“There’s a nationwide campaign to ban smoking, and we feel it’s our duty to extinguish this unsightly, smelly stuff,” Lukas said. “We’re going to do our part.”

Thunder Gulch, who will be ridden by Gary Stevens, is the 4-1 second choice starting from the No. 4 post. Thunder Gulch, apparently headed for the national 3-year-old championship, has won four straight stakes, starting with the Belmont and including the Travers, while building a pretty impressive record of his own with seven victories in nine starts this year.

Also in the Jockey Club Gold Cup field, besides Concern, are Dernier Empereur, Golden Larch, Jed Forest, Unaccounted For and Star Standard, who has finished second to both Thunder Gulch and Cigar.