ELMONT, N.Y. -- From his maiden victory here in June to his eye-catching victory in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga in August, Courageous Cat has the look of a turf star in the making. He figures to be heavily favored to win his fourth straight race when he takes on Take the Points and five others in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Jamaica Handicap, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over Belmont Park's inner turf course.
Courageous Cat began his win streak with a 1 1/4-length victory in a seven-furlong maiden race here on June 10. He followed that with a victory in the A Gift Stakes going 1 1/16 miles also at Belmont before he won the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga.
"He wasn't impressive in his maiden race," said Bill Mott, the trainer of Courageous Cat. "It wasn't until his next race that he put his best foot forward, and he did it again when he ran in the Hall of Fame."
Mott said he targeted the Jamaica for Courageous Cat following the Hall of Fame in part to have a fresh horse for the fall. Should Courageous Cat run "extremely well" in the Jamaica, Mott said, he would be considered for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.
With regular rider Kent Desormeaux at Keeneland on Saturday to ride Mott's other BC Mile hopeful, Mr. Sidney, Ramon Dominguez has picked up the mount on Courageous Cat. Mott and Dominguez teamed up to win last year's Jamaica with Court Vision.
Take the Points comes off a hard-fought head victory over Black Bear Island in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park on Aug. 8. He was being considered for the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on dirt before a temperature sidelined him. Though the Arlington turf course as listed as good when he won the Secretariat, trainer Todd Pletcher would prefer firm turf.
"Hopefully, by Saturday the turf course will have firmed up a bit," Pletcher said. "The ground was a little bit soft in the Secretariat, but I've always felt he was a little bit better on firm ground."
The late entries of Chapin Beach and Boots Ahead should assure a legitimate pace in the Jamaica.
Straight Story, a New York-bred son of Giant's Causeway who has been beaten in three stakes this year by a combined margin of a length, has recorded both of his wins at Belmont. He, too, could be a pace factor.