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ARCADIA, CA – Formerly a turf specialist, Richard Mandella’s Royal Ship appears ready for his close-up on dirt as he heads Monday’s $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1).
Originally run and won in 1938 by Seabiscuit at Hollywood Park, Monday’s renewal attracted a field of seven 3-year-olds and up at a mile and 1/4 and will mark the 83rd renewal of one of North America’s most prestigious races for handicap division horses.
Prominent among those who will try to deny Royal Ship is the John Shirreffs-trained Express Train, who returns to Santa Anita following a third-place finish in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), and the Michael McCarthy-trained Rushie, who was beaten a nose in the ungraded Oaklawn Mile on April 10.
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A 5-year-old gelding who was making only his third start on dirt, Brazilian-bred Royal Ship stalked the pace proved gamest late in taking the 1 1/8-mile Californian Stakes by neck on April 17. A Group 1 winner on grass in Brazil, Royal Ship, a 5-year-old gelding by Midshipman, had been winless in 4 starts for Mandella prior to the Californian.
In winning the iconic Gold Cup prep, Royal Ship earned a Gold Cup-best last-out Beyer Speed Figure of 108 and will hope to stretch his current form to a mile and 1/4 – a distance that’s he’s never tried.
Owned by Fox Hill Farms, Inc. and Siena Farm, LLC, Royal Ship is 12-6-1-2 and will be ridden by Mike Smith for the sixth consecutive time.
Royal Ship Prevails by a Neck in Californian
A rousing 3 1/4-length winner of the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) 3 starts back on January 30, Express Train opened up turning for home in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on March 6 but was overtaken late to be defeated by a 1/2-length by Idol.
A 4-year-old colt by Union Rags, Express Train was subsequently made the 9/5 favorite in the Oaklawn Handicap but finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths.
Owned by Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, Express Train, who is 10-3-4-1, rates a huge chance with regular rider Juan Hernandez back aboard.
Express Train Rolls in San Pasqual
A 1-mile maiden winner in his second start 8 races back on February 1, 2020, Rushie has raced out of town in his last 4 races, finishing second by a nose on April 10 at Oaklawn Park, seventh by 6 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland November 7, winning the Pat Day Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs by 1 3/4 lengths on September 5, and running third, beaten 8 1/4 lengths in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on July 11, 2020.
With newly-relocated Trevor McCarthy set to ride for the first time, Rushie, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by Liam’s Map who will be trying a mile and 1/4 for the first time, will run out of his own stall for the first time since finishing third in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) on June 6, 2020.
Owned by Jim and Donna Daniell, Rushie is 9-3-2-2 with earnings of $583,151.
McCarthy Ready to Make Waves in California
Country Grammer, Brown Storm, Heywoods Beach, and Two Thirty Five complete the lineup.
Joining the Hollywood Gold Cup on the card is the Gamely Stakes (G1) and the Shoemaker Mile Stakes (G1), the latter a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the FanDuel Mile.
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