NEW YORK, OCT. 9 -- Even though it offers a $1 million purse and immense prestige, The Jockey Club Gold Cup could attract only six runners and only one with solid credentials. Java Gold appears virtually certain to win on Saturday.

But, in the view of trainer Mack Miller and the colt's many fans here, a victory against the little-regarded horses in this field at Belmont Park would clinch the 3-year-old championship and the horse-of-the-year title for Java Gold.

"I believe that winning four Grade I stakes in New York is quite enough for him to be horse of the year," Miller said. "If he wins here Saturday, the system is wrong if he {isn't voted} the champion."

If the voters share Miller's view, they can start engraving the Eclipse Award trophy now.

Java Gold missed the entire Triple Crown series, but he has scored consecutive victories in the Whitney Handicap, Travers and Marlboro Cup. He displayed a powerful stretch kick in all of them; in the Marlboro, he ran the final quarter in a sensational 23 1/5 seconds.

Skeptics point out that Java Gold's final times haven't been fast, and that he has been winning by moderate margins against moderate competition.

Miller, a notorious worrier, said: "Actually, this is a tough race. I have to think Nostalgia's Star and Creme Fraiche are the horses to beat."

Nostalgia's Star hasn't won a race since January, and lost to Java Gold in the Marlboro. Most regard Creme Fraiche, the 1985 Belmont Stakes winner, as over the hill, though he is the one horse in the field with proven ability at the Gold Cup distance of 1 1/2 miles. The others in the field are Easy N Dirty, Market Control and Bordeaux Bob.

Java Gold isn't the only Eclipse Award candidate who will be on display at Belmont Saturday. Groovy, the country's ace sprinter, runs in the seven-furlong Vosburgh Stakes, seeking his sixth straight victory. His main competition will come from Gone West, who has been tackling the country's top 3-year-olds in longer races but who is probably more of a sprinter by nature.

Groovy is using the Vosburgh as a final prep for the Breeders' Cup, but Java Gold's next stop is uncertain.

"No decision has been made about the Breeders' Cup," Miller said. "We'll have to wait till this race is over till we decide."

Miller previously has indicated that Java Gold might skip the $3 million Classic and, in fact, might even be retired if he wins The Jockey Club Gold Cup. Apparently, he figures the colt will deserve to rest on his laurels after beating foes like Nostalgia's Star and Creme Fraiche.