The perennial beginning of Summer racing has been the Hollywood Gold Cup. Now at Santa Anita, The Gold Cup still marks the start of the summer and, for one lucky horse, a trip to the Breeders Cup Classic at Keeneland come Fall. The field for The Gold Cup has been drawn, with the usually field of classic distance older California horses (minus Shared Belief and California Chrome) and a few new comers to the division.
- Batti Man – F Perez, K Mulhall
- Hard Aces – V Espinoza, J Sadler
- Poshsky – F Prat, P Miller
- Motown Men – T Baze, T West
- Majestic City – C Lopez, R Baltas
- Hoppertunity – M Garcia, B Baffert
- Big Cazanova – C Nakatani, P Miller
- Moreno – C Velasquez, E Guillot
- Catch a Flight – G Stevens, R Mandella
- Lideris – J Talamo, P Miller
- Finnegans Wake – M Smith, P Miller
So, with the field set, let’s go through the horses. Batti Man is an Argentine bred who hasn’t found much success at Santa Anita, mainly racing in allowance and claiming company. He does has a win over You Know I Know and Govenor Charlie at Santa Anita, albeit in a $60,000 allowance. Probably too big of a step up for him here. Hard Aces is coming out of a third in the Californian and ran fourth in the tough Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year. His last win came in the Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds. I like him in this spot to hit the bottom of our exotics. The pace should help and the step up in distance might be what he needs. Poshsky is an allowance horse for Peter Miller. After an allowance win at Del Mar last July, he has been testing out stakes company in California, being well beaten in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, Grade 2 City of Hope, and the listed Tiznow Stakes. Would need to improve by a lot to have a chance. Motown Men is another horse that hasn’t really tasted stakes company. A third in the Grade 3 Precisionist last time out for the first in stakes company since being well beaten in the Zia Park Derby, this horse seems to be another one that needs to step up. However, if he can return to where he was as a two year, many many years ago, he might have a chance to hit the board. Next up is Majestic City, a horse I liked as a 2-year old back in 2011, to the point of having him as my way too early Derby pick. He ended up not racing in the Kentucky Derby, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to put in some impressive performances around California. He comes out of a win in the Grade 3 Lone Star Handicap beating Carve and Tapiture. He has some quirks, but I have him as one of my top win contenders. Of course the big horse in this race is Hoppertunity. Bob Baffert sends out one of his best 4-year olds in this race, and the youngest horse in the field. After a third in the Stephen Foster Handicap, he makes the quick two week turnaround to run at Santa Anita, a track he loves. He finished 3rd behind Shared Belief and California Chrome in the San Antonio Handicap. Such a live horse here and should relish this trip. Big Cazanova is the horse on call for Richard Mandella. Winner of the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Del Mar last November, he has been nothing but disappointing ever since. And while he has the class to win here, he doesn’t love the dirt and seems to be a much better synthetic horse. Moreno proved to be a pretty good older horse over the past few years, winning the Whitney Handicap last year and the Charles Town Classic this year. He ran against Shared Belief in the Santa Anita Handicap and came up second. He then finished second in the Californian to Catch A Flight last time out. Expect him to show up Saturday and could run a great race to capture this one. Speaking of Catch A Flight, this Argentinian bred has only made 5 starts in the States, all this year and 3 of which were winning ones. He finished a decent third in the Santa Anita Handicap, before winning two straight Graded stakes, the Precisionist and the Californian. Such a live horse in this field and can’t be ignored. If any horse was to beat Hoppertunity, it his him. Has the feel of a Majestic Harbor, last year’s winner of this race. Lideris is another horse the previously raced in Argentina. He finished sixth in the Californian last time out. Needs a big step up in class to win here. I would like to see him run on turf though, with a very turf friendly pedigree. Could be a nice fit in the turf division later this year. Finally, Donegal racing throws in their turf star, Finnegans Wake. If this race was on turf, he would be the stand out pick. However, his last time on dirt was a well beaten sixth in the Clark Handicap. It looks as if this spot is just a prep for the Arlington Million. Bottom of the exotics maybe, but doesn’t look like much.
My Pick: Hoppertunity. I think that Bob Baffert is putting him in a great spot and even with the quick turnaround should improve with this run. Below him I would have Catch A Flight, Hard Aces, and Majestic City.
No matter what happens, this Saturday’s race will be exciting and will launch us into the Summer Series of stakes races. Plus there is a bid to the Breeders Cup Classic on the line, which always makes the race more exciting.