A small field of seven will line up this Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes, but don’t let the size of the field fool you. Three major headliners have entered this event, including three-time graded stakes winner City of Light, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap winner Accelerate, and trainer Bob Baffert’s rising star Dr. Dorr, a dominant victor in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes last time out. This historic race began at Hollywood Park before moving to Santa Anita after Hollywood Park closed for good in 2013.
Trainer Michael McCarthy’s City of Light has blossomed into one of America’s top-rated older horses after three straight graded stakes victories. The streak began at Santa Anita when he took the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes, then shipped to Arkansas for his first win around two turns in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap over Accelerate. With a nice showing in this race, he will become racing’s newest millionaire (he is right on the cusp with $940,600 in earnings), but he will also be trying to go 1 1/4 miles for the first time.
Dr. Dorr is a rising star in the older male division. After two wins in smaller races, the 5-year-old gelded son of Lookin At Lucky moved up in competition for the Californian, where he earned a 108 Beyer speed figure, the highest last-out speed figure in this race. Dr. Dorr is owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, and was bred in Kentucky by Baffert, CHRB Commissioner Madeline Auerbach, and the late actor Jack Klugman. He enters this race searching for his first Grade 1 victory.
Accelerate notched his biggest win two starts back when he cruised to a 5 1/2-length victory going 1 1/4 miles in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 10. While The Big ‘Cap was not considered overly strong this year, the win was still impressive. Most recently, he was second as the 6-5 favorite in the Oaklawn Handicap. This horse is the class of the field and is approaching $1.5 million in earnings.
The field for the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita from the rail out: Little Scotty, Accelerate, Prince of Arabia, City of Light, Dr. Dorr, Pavel, and Full of Luck.
#4 City of Light – Our number-one ranked older male (at the moment) will look to prove us right this weekend when he tries to carry his speed out to the ultimate challenge of 10 furlongs. It’s unknown if he can get the distance, but it’s a positive that he was able to handle 9 furlongs very well when winning the Oaklawn Handicap. When competing in one-turn races throughout his career, he was very close to the lead, but at Oaklawn, he was he was able to sit off the lead and relax early. That will be important in this race becaues there’s plenty of early speed entered. City of Light has run three straight triple-digit Beyer speed figures, with his highest coming at Oaklawn last time out. Perhaps he is at his best when going two turns and can excel at this distance.
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#5 Dr. Dorr – Baffert always seems to have an ace up his sleeve. Last year, Collected burst onto the scene and ended up winning the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over Arrogate before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Gun Runner. Dr. Dorr could be the 2018 Collected, and his Californian win was a big-time performance. This horse has had several issues in the past, but it now seems like he has put those issues behind him because he is running very well. There’s no doubt that the competition gets much tougher here, but you can never doubt Baffert in these types of races.
#2 Accelerate – This is one of the classiest horses in training right now. He has put up four straight triple-digit Beyer speed figures while finishing first or second in each of those starts. After winning the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes to kick off 2018, he then picked up the biggest win of his career in the Santa Anita Handicap, skipping over a wet surface with ease. Last time out, he squared off with City of Light in the Oaklawn Handicap and stuck with him all the way before finally losing by a neck in the end. His best chance here could be to sit off the early lead and rate behind a hot pace.
#6 Pavel – This horse has been all over the map. Seemingly every time he is in a spot where he can win, something weird happens to him, but mostly, he has been spotted in races that are way over his head. Last time out, he outran his long odds in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but he was still only able to finish fourth while being defeated by over 7 lengths. This is definitely a better spot than Dubai, but can he recover from that tough trip in time to put up his best effort here? He is the only that can upset the top three, but there are a lot of question marks.
NONE – You have to think that one of the top three are a near-lock in this race, and if any horse does upset them, it will be Pavel, but he is not obscure enough to be considered a party crasher.
#1 Little Scotty – Strangely, this son of Paddy O’Prado has won two in a row since moving to the dirt, his first two career starts on that surface, and they were both runaway victories. Now he must move way up in class, though, as those wins came against claiming and optional claiming company. The competition will be steep.
#7 Full of Luck – This Chilean colt made his American debut two races back on the turf, where he struggled, then moved back to dirt last time out and showed some improvement in the Californian. However, he was still only fourth, so he will need to improve quite a bit again to have a shot here.
#3 Prince of Arabia – He was second last time out to Dr. Dorr in the Californian, but was he well-beaten by over 7 lengths. The level of improvement here will have to be large if he wants have a shot at making an impact in this very tough spot.