ARCADIA, Calif. (May 24, 2017)–Once thought to be a turf horse, trainer Phil D’Amato’s Midnight Storm returns to Southern California and heads Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. For 3-year-olds and up, the Gold Cup will be run for the 78th time on Saturday. In addition to Midnight Storm, Vladimir Cerin’s Follow Me Crev, Bob Baffert’s Cupid and John Sadler’s up and coming Accelerate and veteran Hard Aces, who won the race two years ago, all loom prominent among a field of nine 3-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter.
Known as the Hollywood Gold Cup from its inception in 1938 through 2013, the first running of the Gold Cup was won by the immortal Seabiscuit, who carried 133 pounds and was ridden by the legendary George Woolf. With the inaugural running serving as a benchmark for all time, the Gold Cup remains one of America’s most prestigious races for horses three and up at a mile and a quarter.
MIDNIGHT STORM: A gate to wire winner of both the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles Native Diver Stakes on Nov. 27 at Del Mar and the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual here on Jan. 1, he showed the way and was second, beaten three quarters of a length by one the best horses in the country, Shaman Ghost, in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap two starts back on March 11. Most recently third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap at odds of 1-2 on April 15, Midnight Storm looks like the horse to beat in Saturday’s Gold Cup. A Grade I winner on turf, the 6-year-old full horse by Pioneerof the Nile figures to remain on the main track for the forseeable future. Owned by A. Venneri Racing, Inc. and Little Red Feather Racing, Midnight Storm, who has seven wins from 13 turf starts, is 23-10-4-2 overall with earnings of $1,681,110.
FOLLOW ME CREV: Third, beaten 4 ½ lengths two starts back by Midnight Storm in the Santa Anita Handicap, this 5-year-old Quality Road gelding comes off a second place finish to highly regarded Collected in the Grade II Californian Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on April 22. Owned by David and Holly Wilson, he was claimed for $50,000 15 starts back in May, 2015. With the Santa Anita Handicap his lone start at a mile and a quarter, Follow Me Crev, who will hope to be running from off the pace, will need to prove his worth at the classic distance. With an overall mark of 21-6-4-4, he has earnings of $377,240.
ACCELERATE: Like Hard Aces, Accelerate is owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, but that’s where the similarities, for the most part, end. Best suited when stalking the early pace, this 4-year-old Lookin At Lucky colt stamped himself a horse to watch four starts back when he ran a big third at Santa Anita in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 4. Second three starts back in the Grade II San Pasqual, he was third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths by Hoppertunity in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 4. Most recently a close second in a third condition allowance going one mile on May 5, Accelerate, who won the Grade II Los Alamitos Derby at 1 1/8 miles in September, will try a mile and a quarter for the first time. Although never an easy task, Accelerate has good recent form and tactical speed in his corner as he eyes the Gold Cup with regular rider Tyler Baze. With an overall mark of 10-3-3-3, he has earnings of $415,480.
CUPID: Idle since well beaten in the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24, this 4-year-old Tapit colt faces a tough assignment going a mile and a quarter without a recent race. With front-running victories two and three starts back in the Grade II West Virginia Derby on Aug. 6 and the Grade II Indiana Derby July 16, Cupid could prove a menacing presence for Midnight Storm. A gate to wire winner at age three of the Grade II Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, Cupid has ample class, but has never been the Gold Cup distance before. Owned by Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, Cupid is 9-4-1-0 with earnings of $1,336,803.
HARD ACES: With the 2015 Gold Cup standing as his crowning achievement, Hard Aces comes off a hard earned neck victory going 1 ½ miles in the Grade III Tokyo City Cup here on April 2, his second win in 17 starts (both at 1 ½ miles) since the Gold Cup triumph. A dedicated deep closer, Hard Aces, a 7-year-old full horse by Hard Spun, could get a lively pace to exploit with the prospect of Midnight Storm and Cupid engaged in battle for early supremacy. Owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, Hard Aces will be ridden back by Santiago Gonzalez, is 8-1-1-1 at a mile and a quarter and is 40-8-6-9 overall with earnings of $1,147,990.
THE GRADE I, $500,000 GOLD CUP AT SANTA ANITA WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT
- American Freedom–Martin Garcia–122
- Follow Me Crev–Kent Desormeaux–122
- Texas Ryano–Gary Stevens–122
- Prime Attraction–Jamie Theriot–122
- Midnight Storm–Flavien Prat–124
- Cupid–Rafael Bejarano–124
- Big John B–Mike Smith–122
- Accelerate–Tyler Baze–122
- Hard Aces–Santiago Gonzalez–122