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ARCADIA, Calif. (June 22, 2016)—Recent Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin, streaking Second Summer, Grade I winner Hoppertunity, defending champ Hard Aces and multiple (turf) graded winner Bal a Bali head a field of eight 3-year-olds and up in Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, to be contested for the 77th time at a mile and a quarter.
Won by the legendary Seabiscuit in its inaugural running at Hollywood Park in 1938, the Gold Cup is one of North America’s most prestigious races at the distance and has been won by a “Who’s Who” of equine all-time greats including Noor (1950), Citation (1951), Swaps (1956), Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1965-67), Ack Ack (1971), Affirmed (1979) and Cigar in 1995. The Gold Cup will be run for the third consecutive year at Santa Anita on Saturday.
MELATONIN: Trained by David Hofmans, he ran the race of his life when allowed to run freely on the front end in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 12. A rousing 4 ¼ length winner of the Big ’Cap, Melatonin earned a career best 107 Beyer Speed figure and was subsequently sent to Oaklawn Park, where he showed the way early and ended up second, beaten a length, by Effinex. A 5-year-old gelding by Kodiak Kowboy, Melatonin has come to hand quickly this year for Hofmans, as he was advised by jockey Joe Talamo to try the deep waters of the Big ’Cap following a solid second condition allowance score going 1 1/16 miles here on Feb. 5. Owned by Tarabilla Farms, Inc., look for Melatonin to be sent to the front on Saturday. Melatonin has earned $786,000 this year, a substantial portion of his career haul, which stands at $918,552. His overall mark now reads 12-4-3-3.
SECOND SUMMER: In search of his fourth consecutive win, he comes off the best race of his career, a one length score in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Californian here on May 22. Long considered better on turf, this 4-year-old Summer Bird gelding was switched to the main track by trainer Peter Eurton on Feb. 15 and he responded with a solid second place finish at a mile and a sixteenth. He’s since rattled off three consecutive wins and is considered by some to be the “now” horse for the Gold Cup. Second Summer, who is owned by Sharon Alesia, Ciaglia Racing, LLC and Ferrell, has a stalking style and he’ll be ridden for the third time in a row by Mario Gutierrez. With an overall mark of 13-4-2-1 and earnings of $270,610, the Gold Cup will be his first try at a mile and a quarter.
HOPPERTUNITY: Third, beaten four lengths by California Chrome in the Grade I Dubai World Cup March 26, Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity was just up to win the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles San Antonio Stakes by a nose on Feb. 6. Winless in three tries at a mile and a quarter, the venerable 5-year-old has been keeping graded company since February of 2014 and he’s very competitive at Santa Anita with a 3-4-2 mark from 10 tries here. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity would be well served by a fast pace. The leading money earner in the field with earnings of $2,872,675, his overall record stands at 19-5-6-4.
HARD ACES: Best suited as a deep closer, last year’s winner will have to hope someone can engage Melatonin early and thus ensure a legitimate early pace. Trained by John Sadler and owned by his primary client, Hronis Racing, LLC, Hard Aces has been winless in eight starts since last year’s Gold Cup, but comes of a much improved runner-up effort to Second Summer in the Californian and could be poised for another top effort on Saturday. A 6-year-old full horse by Hard Spun, Hard Aces, who was originally in the care of Larry Jones, will be making his 13th start for Sadler as he seeks his seventh win from 32 career tries. He has earnings of $879,645.
BAL A BALI: A graded stakes winner on turf in America, this 6-year-old Brazilian-bred, who was a four-time Group I winner in his native Brazil, will try the main track for the first time in the Gold Cup. A three-time winner at a mile and one half on turf and one for two at a mile and a quarter on turf, stamina certainly is not a question, but his ability to act on dirt remains unknown. Trained by Richard Mandella, he’ll be making his 10th stateside start in the Gold Cup. Attentive to the pace in most of his turf starts, it’ll be interesting to see what style suits him best on dirt. Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, Inc. and Siena Farm, LLC, he has 13 wins from 21 starts and has earnings of $763,478.
Race 9 Approximate post time 5:45 p.m. PDT
The Gold Cup at Santa Anita is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race, with the winner assured a berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. For scratches, late changes and complete morning line information, please visit santaanita.com.
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