GOLD CUP SERVES AS ‘WIN AND YOU’RE IN’ BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC QUALIFIER; 76TH RUNNING OF GOLD CUP TO BE SHOWN LIVE ON NBCSN AT 5 P.M., PDT
ARCADIA, Calif. (June 24, 2015)–One, two finishers in the Grade II Californian May 30, Catch a Flight and Moreno head a solid field of 11 three year olds and up going a mile and a quarter in Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. A winner of the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes three starts back on Jan. 10, Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity returns to Santa Anita following a third place finish in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs June 13 and is one of several entrants who rates strong consideration in the iconic fixture that was won for the first time by the legendary Seabiscuit at the now-shuttered Hollywood Park in 1938 and will be contested for the second year in a row at Santa Anita.
The primary contenders in Saturday’s Gold Cup are as follows:
Catch a Flight This 5-year-old Argentine-bred horse by Giant’s Causeway has come to hand for Richard Mandella and is in search of his third consecutive win. Victorious in the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles Precisionist Stakes May 2, he rallied three-wide into the lane to take the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Californian by a half length over Moreno in an effort that suggested an extra furlong will be to his liking. A winner of three of five stateside starts with Mandella, Catch a Flight has five wins from six starts at a mile and a quarter and it would appear he’ll have plenty of pace to run at with regular rider Gary Stevens back aboard.
Owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, Catch a Flight is 15-9-0-3 overall with earnings of $393,239.
Moreno Time tested and well traveled, Grade I winning Moreno has faced the best horses of his generation and although he has only four lifetime wins, his overall mark of 27-4-9-4 and earnings of $2,966,940 speak volumes as to his durability and capacity to consistently perform at racing’s highest levels.
An upset winner of the Grade II Charles Town Classic two starts back on April 18, Moreno shipped west for trainer Eric Guillot and pressed a legitimate pace in the Californian while never throwing in the towel. A 5-year-old gelding by Ghostzapper, the Southern Equine Stable homebred will likely be sent to the early lead Saturday under eastern-based Cornelio Velasquez, who will be aboard for the third consecutive time in the Gold Cup. Moreno has three seconds (including a nose defeat in the Grade I Travers Stakes at age three) from seven lifetime tries at a mile and a quarter.
Hoppertunity A well beaten third by top rated Shared Belief in the Grade II San Antonio Invitational Feb. 7, Hoppertunity had been idle four months prior to running third, beaten 5 ¾ lengths, in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs June 13 and could likely show major improvement on Saturday with a recent race under his belt. Owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, the 4-year-old colt by Any Given Saturday won the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs four starts back and is a three-time graded stakes winner who will try a mile and quarter for the first time in the Gold Cup. With an overall mark of 10-4-2-2 and earnings of $1,179,675, Hoppertunity has the credentials to muster a breakthrough performance on Saturday.
Big Cazanova Seventh, beaten 7 ½ lengths by Catch a Flight after showing the way early in the Californian, trainer Peter Miller’s 6-year-old ridgling took the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles Native Diver Handicap three starts back at Del Mar on Nov. 29 and will likely keep Moreno company early on Saturday. Owned by Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable, Dona Licha and Gary Barber, “Big Caz” has a second and three thirds from seven tries at a mile and quarter. A Group I winner in Peru two years ago, Argentine-bred Big Cazanova has four wins from 11 stateside starts for Miller and is 22-4-6-6 overall with earnings of $397,942.
Finnegans Wake Also conditioned by Miller, this 6-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Powerscourt has enjoyed a remarkable year running exclusively on turf. A winner of the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes and the Grade II San Marcos stakes at Santa Anita in January and February, Finnegans Wake roared from off the pace to take the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 2 and was a close fourth in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles turf Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park June 6.
With all seven of his lifetime wins coming on grass, Finnegans Wake will try natural dirt for the fifth time in his career. Owned by Donegal Racing and Gary Hartunian, Finnegans Wake will likely be taken well off the early pace and hope to have the same kick on dirt that he’s been showing on grass. His overall mark stands at 30-7-4-3 and he has earnings of $1,467,975.
Hard Aces Fourth, beaten 6 ¼ lengths by Shared Belief in his only try at a mile and quarter three starts back in the Santa Anita Handicap March 7, trainer John Sadler’s Hard Aces ran on well to be third, beaten four lengths by Catch a Flight, in the Grade II Californian on May 30. A 5-year-old horse by Hard Spun, Hard Aces was originally trained by Larry Jones and will make his fourth start for Sadler in the Gold Cup. Owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, he should have plenty of pace to run at on Saturday. With one turf win, Hard Aces is 22-5-3-7 overall with earnings of $292,145.
Motown Men Third, beaten two lengths by Catch a Flight in the Grade III Precisionist Stakes two starts back on May 2, this 6-year-old California-bred gelding by Decarchy was claimed for $40,000 four starts back and he comes off an authoritative three quarter length win versus statebreds in the one mile Tiznow Stakes May 23.
Trained by Ted H. West and owned by Gulliver Racing, LLC, “Mo” will try a mile and a quarter for the first time Saturday. With three wins on natural dirt, Motown Men is 29-6-6-5 overall with earnings of $384,459.
The complete field for the Gold Cup, to be run as the ninth on a 10-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Batti Man, Fernando Perez, 119; Hard Aces, Victor Espinoza, 119; Poshsky, Flavien Prat, 119; Motown Men, Tyler Baze, 119; Majestic City, Charles Lopez, 119; Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia, 121; Big Cazanova, Corey Nakatani, 119; Moreno, Cornelio Velasquez, 121; Catch a Flight, Gary Stevens, 119; Lideris, Joe Talamo, 119, and Finnegans Wake, Mike Smith, 124.
The Gold Cup at Santa Anita is one of four graded stakes to be offered on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post time is 1 p.m., with admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.