Roaring past the field around the far turn, Borrego cruised to an easy victory in yesterday's $1 million Gold Cup at Belmont Park, one of five Grade I races on the card with Breeders' Cup implications.
Borrego, one of three California horses in the field of eight, now becomes one of the top contenders for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic in four weeks.
In the other races, Ashado won the Beldame, Taste of Paradise was an upset winner in the Vosburgh, Shakespeare remained unbeaten with a victory in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, and Riskaverse was the surprise winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational.
In races at other tracks yesterday, Rock Hard Ten stamped himself a top prospect for the BC Classic with a victory in the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita, with Roman Ruler second. Also, The Daddy was the long shot winner of the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, with A.P. Arrow, trained by Wayne Lukas, finishing second.
At Philadelphia Park, Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr.'s one-day comeback after a 10-year retirement fell way short when Indian Vale finished off the board in the Cotillion.
Winner of the $1 million Pacific Classic at Santa Anita on Aug. 21, Borrego was brought East by trainer Beau Greely for a race over the same track that will host the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred championships on Oct. 29.
"This is two millions in a row," Greely said. "He'll stay here for the Breeders' Cup."
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Borrego raced in midpack as favorite Flower Alley and stablemate Bishop Court Hill set the pace, with Lava Man just behind them.
By the time the field moved into the far turn, Gomez had unleashed Borrego and he responded with a breathtaking, three-wide move to take command and win by 41/2 lengths.
Suave was second and Sun King, trained by Nick Zito, was third. Flower Alley was fourth, followed by Imperialism, Grand Reward, Lava Man and Bishop Court Hill.
Borrego, second to Lava Man in the Californian and the Hollywood Gold Cup, beat his rival in the Pacific Classic, the best race of his career -- until the Gold Cup.
The 4-year-old son of El Prado covered the 11/4 miles in 2 minutes 2.86 seconds and returned $10.60, $5 and $4.20. Flower Alley, trained by Todd Pletcher, came into the Gold Cup off wins in the Jim Dandy and the Travers, but was not a factor after setting the pace on a sunny day at Belmont.
Bishop Court Hill was entered as a "rabbit" in an effort to keep expected pacesetter Lava Man busy in the early part of the race.
"Flower Alley was just a little too fresh," Pletcher said. "It had nothing to do with the rabbit. Flower Alley was just too rank."