Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin makes his first start in two months when he runs in Saturday’s Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
That was the plan all along for David Hofmans, who trains the expected pacesetter for Susan Osborne’s Tarabilla Farms. Melatonin’s last race came April 16, when the son of Kodiak Kowboy finished second to Effinex in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap after leading until the stretch run in 1 1/8-mile race.
“He’s got a good post,” Hofmans said, referring to No. seven in a field of eight three-year-olds and up going a mile and a quarter. He (Joe Talamo) can decide what to do. We’re on the outside and the other speed in the race is inside of us, so he can dictate what he wants to do. It will be up to Joe.
“We freshened the horse up because he’s going to have a tough go this fall (leading to the ultimate goal, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 5).”
John Sadler, meanwhile, is optimistic about the chances of defending Gold Cup winner Hard Aces, a committed stretch runner who should fancy the distance.
“That’s his race, a mile and a quarter,” Sadler said. “That’s where he’s been most consistent. We’re looking forward to it.”
After watching Hoppertunity gallop Friday morning, Bob Baffert suppressed speculation that the 3-1 morning line favorite would not run in the Gold Cup and decided to go.
“I liked the way he went,” Baffert said of the son of Any Given Saturday, who has not raced since March 26, when he was third by four lengths behind California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup.
“He may be a work short for the race, but he went well this morning so we plan to run.”
The field for the Gold Cup, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event with a fees-paid berth to the Classic: Bal a Bali, Flavien Prat, 9-2; Second Summer, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1; Hard Aces, Santiago Gonzalez, 6-1; Lieutenant Colonel, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Win the Space, Gary Stevens, 20-1; Hoppertunity, Mike Smith, 3-1; Melatonin, Joe Talamo, 7-2; and Imperative, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1.
Santa Anita offers a Gold Cup Trackside package that includes a 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships General Admission pass and more for Friday, Nov. 4.
Other featured events Saturday are the KROQ Concert and Brewfest, a Gold Cup Betting Challenge and the Guest Chef Series in the Chandelier Room. For more information, visit www.santaanta.com/events.
BAL A BALI MAKES MAIN TRACK DEBUT IN GOLD CUP
After 21 career starts on grass, Bal a Bali will make his first start on dirt in Saturday’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
“We’ve always wanted to try him on dirt and it’s time to do it,” said Richard Mandella, who trains the six-year-old Brazilian bred horse for the Fox Hill Farms of Rick Porter and David Pope’s Siena Farm.
Bal a Bali, bred in Brazil, won the Grade III American Stakes on May 9, 2015, in his U.S. debut, but has won only an overnight race in eight subsequent starts. Winner of 13 of his 21 races, seven of his last eight races have been in graded stakes, including the Grade I Shoemaker Mile (fifth) and the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile (third).
LORD NELSON COULD REIGN IN GRADE I TRIPLE BEND
Lord Nelson was visually impressive winning his first start in more than five months, an overnight event by 3 ½ lengths on June 3.
Next up: Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Triple Bend Stakes for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.
“He came out of the race well and when you have an opportunity to run in a Grade I when the horse is doing well, you’ve got to go for it,” said Bob Baffert, who trains the four-year-old son of Pulpit for Spendthrift Farm.
Lord Nelson already has a graded stakes victory, having won the Grade II San Vicente Stakes as a three-year-old on Feb. 1, 2015.
The field for the Triple Bend, which goes as race eight: Clever Royal, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Kobe’s Back, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Cautious Giant, Fernando Perez, 8-1; Lord Nelson, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Ambitious Brew, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Subtle Indian, Mike Smith, 3-1; Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 12-1; and Coastline, Tyler Baze, 6-1.
FANS CAN SEE CHAMP NYQUIST WORK AT 12:45 P.M. SATURDAY
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist is scheduled to work at 12:45 p.m. on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday before the first race, which is set to go at 1:30 p.m. Devotees of the 2015 Eclipse Award winner as champion two-year-old male will have an opportunity to see the son of Uncle Mo owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam strut his stuff on a pristine track.
“Anytime you’re the only one on a freshly groomed track, how do you not take advantage of that?” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “We’re very appreciative that Santa Anita is letting us do it and we’re looking forward to it.”
Supporters of Nyquist are ever-expanding.
“Sharla Sanders does a wonderful job handling all the social media activity for Nyquist,” O’Neill said. “He has a lot of fans.”
O’Neill is on record as saying plans for Nyquist’s comeback race will be decided on a work by work basis, but he noted on Friday, “In an ideal world we’d stay in California and not get on a plane. But we’ll play that by ear in the next few works and see what makes sense.”
Santa Anita’s admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, giving the public ample time for access to see Nyquist’s drill, which is expected to be at five furlongs under regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
Last Friday, Nyquist had his first workout since finishing third in the Preakness Stakes on May 21, going four furlongs in 48.60, breezing.
FINISH LINES: Three-time champion Beholder, preparing for the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar July 30, is scheduled to work Sunday, Richard Mandella said . . . Undefeated and unchallenged champion Songbird, listed to have three starts before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Nov. 4, galloped Friday morning. “She’s as happy as can be,” said Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer . . . On the occasion of his 34th birthday Thursday, Rafael Bejarano captured both ends of the early double aboard his only two mounts to take a 35-32 lead over currently suspended runner-up Flavien Prat in the race for Santa Anita’s Spring Meet riding title . . . Phil D’Amato, winning at a 28 percent clip, has a commanding 22-10 lead over runner-up Hollendorfer among trainers . . . Royal Heroine Stakes winner Nancy From Nairobi worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Friday in 1:00.80 for John Sadler . . . Agent Tony Matos has Martin Garciabooked to ride at Prairie Meadows in Iowa next Thursday through Saturday, for Todd Pletcher (Thrilled in the Iowa Oaks Thursday) and Hollendorfer (Dr. Fager’s Gal in Thursday’s Saylorville); All Star Bub (Friday in the Iowa Distaff); and Dream Saturday (in Saturday’s Iowa Sprint Handicap) . . . Martin Pedroza has been suspended three days (June 25, 26 and 30) for causing interference on Warm Endowmentin last Saturday’s ninth race, while fellow rider Matt Garcia has been suspended the same three days for causing interference aboard Badasmywifeletsmebe in Sunday’s third race . . . CARMA CARES’ ninth annual charity fundraiser will be held 6:30 p.m., Saturday, July 16, at the Del Mar Hilton Hotel. For further information, visit carma4horses.org or call 626 574-6622 . . . The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Barretts Sales will host a free new owner seminar and preview of the Paddock Sale at Del Mar Saturday, July 23, 9 a.m., in Del Mar’s Veranda Café. Reservations can be made by calling TOC at 626 574-6620 . . . TOC’s membership has elected Joe Ciaglia and re-elected incumbents Nick Alexander, Ron Ellis, Billy Morey and Samantha Siegel to its Board of Directors, each to three-year terms beginning July 1 . . . Santa Anita will offer holiday racing on Monday, July 4, with first post time at 1:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Santa Anita Park