OffTrackBetting.com - The Grade 1 The Gold Cup at Santa Anita comes our way this Saturday, June 25 from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Horses three years old and upward will take to Santa Anita's dirt track and race 1 1/4 miles searching for the winner's share of the $500,000 purse.
A field of eight have been confirmed for the Gold Cup - race 9 on Santa Anita's Saturday schedule. Post time is 5:30 PM. Here is a peek into the past performances of all eight combatants for this intriguing and lucrative Grade 1 stakes - a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
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Hoppertunity - defending runner-up in this race - Bob Baffert trainee was one of the favorites for the 2014 Kentucky Derby but missed that race. He won the 2015 San Pasqual Stakes January 10 and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs November 28, 2014. He enters off a respectable third place finish behind California Chrome in the $10 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan March 24 after a good win in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita February 6, an OK third behind California Chrome in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes January 9 and three straight runner-up finishes - the 2015 Clark Handicap November 27 at Churchill Downs, the Grade 2 Haygard Fayette Stakes October 30 at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in September. Hoppertunity has five wins, six seconds and four third place finishes in 19 starts overall, has finished no worse than fourth in 11 graded tries and has placed in six straight graded/group stakes races ahead of this weekend - competitive every time out. He has also posted three wins, four seconds and two third place finishes in 10 starts at Santa Anita. Mike Smith has been tabbed with keeping the roll going on the morning line favorite from gate 6 Saturday.
Melatonin - has 12 career starts for trainer David Hofmans with four wins, three seconds and three third place finishes. He enters off a respectable second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap April 16 in his first start outside California which followed a terrific, career defining win by 4 1/4 lengths at 16-1 odds in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on this track in March (a race he posted an impressive 107 Beyer Speed Figure) and an Allowance Optional Claiming score here February 5. He also had a second in the Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes here in October. He has been very good so far, is 3-for-3 at Santa Anita and will be looking for his second stakes score with Joe Talamo in the saddle from post 7.
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Imperative - finished second behind Dortmund in the 2015 Charles Town Classic in April (a race he won in 2014 at 26-1 odds and a race he finished fourth in last time out April 23). He's was OK before his latest fourth - a fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 12 followed three straight runner-up finishes - a nose behind Hoppertunity in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes February 6, in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes January 9 and in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar November 28. Imperative has failed to hit the board in his last two starts overall after looking pretty good to start his year and looks for his first ever Grade 1 score - his first win overall since April, 2014 (16 races), and first win in 12 starts at Santa Anita with Rafael Bejarano aboard from the outside gate 8.
Second Summer - Peter Eurton trained gelding has four wins, two seconds and a third place finish in 12 career starts. He enters on the heels of a nice three race win streak - the Grade 2 Californian Stakes here last time out May 22 and two Allowance Optional Claiming races with the last coming April 17 at Los Alamitos. He has just one other career graded stakes start - a sixth in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby on this track in October. Second Summer arrives in career best form and will be after his third straight win in his first start beyond 1 1/8 miles - with Mario Gutierrez in the irons from gate 2.
Hard Aces - defending champion in this race - John Sadler trainee won this race in upset fashion over Catch a Flight and Hoppertunity but hasn't posted victory in eight starts since. Last time out was a respectable second behind Melatonin in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes here May 22 which followed a disappointing seventh in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic April 23, a decent second with an impressive 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 12, a fifth in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes February 6, a fourth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes January 9, a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a sixth in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes September 26 and another disappointing sixth in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 22. Hard Aces now has six wins, five seconds and seven third place finishes in 31 career starts and has placed in just two of his last eight starts overall. Santiago Gonzales will be in the reins hoping to change his fortunes around from post 3.
Bal A Bali - Brazilian Triple Crown winner and 2014 Brazilian Horse of the Year, Richard Mandella trainee has an impressive 13 wins, a second and four third place finishes in 21 career starts. He won his last eight races at home (6 group stakes) before debuting in North America with a nice win in the Grade 3 American Stakes at Santa Anita last May. He went on to a pair of disappointing fifth place finishes - the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita in June and the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile in August. He has been better in five starts since - a fourth last time out in the Grade 2 Charles Whittimgham Memorial Stakes on this track May 29 followed three straight third place finishes including the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate April 30, in the Grade 3 Frank E Kilroe Mile here March 30 and in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes January 2. Before that was a respectable second in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar November 27 and an Allowance Optional Claiming score on that same track October 30. Bal a Bali has been competitive virtually every time out but chases his first graded stakes win over a year - in his first ever start on dirt. Flavien Prat gets the call from the rail.
Lieutenant Colonel - Jerry Hollendorfer trained gelding has three wins and a third place finish in eight career starts. He enters off an OK third behind Second Summer in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes here May 22 after a disappointing fourth in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup here April 3 and a two race win streak - both Allowance Optional Claiming races on this track. He didn't look great before that however - a seventh in an Allowance Optional Claiming in January followed a seventh in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial last April and a tenth in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes in March, 2015. Lieutenant Colonel arrives in so-so form as he chases his first stakes win. Martin Garcia has been tabbed to ride from gate 4.
Win The Space - has three wins and two third place finishes in 10 career starts but has yet to place in four stakes tries. He enters off an Allowance Optional Claiming score here May 15 which followed a fourteenth place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, another Allowance Optional Claiming win October 25 and a seventh in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby September 6. He has been good against lesser competition - not so great against stakes competition. Gary Stevens will be aboard hoping to change all of that from post 5.