The 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Race Preview and Analysis

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June 24th 2016

Coming tomorrow evening on NBC Sports (7 to 8 PM CST) is another very interesting “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Although it lacks a big name entry like a California Chrome or Frosted, this should be a very entertaining race that has an extremely competitive field top-to-bottom. There are also a few new shooters in this field that are intriguing. Plus, the Gold Cup will shed some more light on who the Breeders Cup Classic contenders are since this race will be run on the same track (Santa Anita) at the same distance (1 1/4th mile) as The Classic.

Two of the horses in this field–Hoppertunity and Melatonin–are ranked in my latest Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings at 7th and 9th respectively. Will Melatonin put them to sleep again like he did in the Big ‘Cap? The defending Gold Cup champion Hard Aces is another entry. Hard Aces appeared in my Breeders’ Cup Classic contender lists last year and he finished 6th in 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Gold Cup at Santa Anita – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #9 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: Saturday June 25th 7:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Bal a Bali (120) – Prat/Mandella – 9-2
2. Second Summer (120) – Gutierrez/Eurton – 4-1
3. Hard Aces (122) – Gonzalez/Sadler – 6-1
4. Lieutenant Colonel (120) – Garcia/Hollendorfer – 8-1
5. Win the Space (120) – Stevens/Papaprodromou – 20-1
6. Hoppertunity (120) – Smith/Baffert – 3-1
7. Melatonin (124) – Talamo/Hofmans – 7-2
8. Imperative (117) – Bejarano/Howard – 6-1

Race Analysis

Hoppertunity – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 3 starts 0-1-1-1. The Baffert-trained 5 year old is probably the most proven and experienced horse in the field heading into this event. He finished 3rd in the Dubai World Cup and is extremely consistent. He has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race. But he rarely wins and especially after a layoff. Put him in your Trifectas and perhaps your Exacta bets. Show bets on Hopps are probably a sure bet here but won’t pay out very much.

Melatonin – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 1 start 1-0-0-0. If he runs like he did in the Santa Anita Handicap back in March, then he will win this one. He proved to me with his 2nd place finish to Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap that his Big ‘Cap win wasn’t just a fluke performance. Key him to win along with Hard Aces in your Trifectas and Superfectas.

Second Summer – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts.  He is 4-1 for the morning line odds and I think those odds are way too short. He would have been beaten by Hard Aces in the California Stakes had it been 1 1/4 mile race instead of 1 1/8th mile. A 4th place finish in this field would be a great effort for this horse.

Bal a Bali – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts on dirt. Another South American project from highly respected trainer Richard Mandella. He did wonders with a Argentinian horse named Catch a Flight last year. Bal a Bali is a turf horse from Brazil making his first start on dirt. He is fast and should be a front runner in this race. In his last start on turf at 1 1/4 mile, he faded to a 4th place finish. I don’t expect anything different on dirt and think he is probably a better candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Hard Aces – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 5 starts 1-1-0-1. Last year’s Gold Cup winner. There is enough speed in this field to aide his closing style. Don’t be surprised if he wins again.

Imperative – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 8 starts 0-0-3-1. He finished 4th behind Melatonin, Hard Aces and Effinex in the Santa Anita Handicap. I really feel that this horse’s best distance is at 1 1/8th mile. So I don’t see him as a serious threat to finish 1st or 2nd here. Consider him for your Superfectas.

Lieutenant Colonel – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts. He got nipped for 2nd at the wire by Hard Aces in the 1 1/8th mile California Stakes. Before this race, he finished 4th in the The Tokyo City Cup. So distance is not a problem, just the talent he will have to deal with in this field. I wouldn’t put him in any of my trifectas.

Win the Space – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts. At first glance, he is probably the worst horse in this field. He has bounced between turf and dirt and only has 4 starts on dirt tracks. However, in his last start, a 1 1/16th mile allowance race at Santa Anita on May 15th, he finished 1st and produced an impressive time of 1:41.55. That was faster than Melatonin’s 1:41.97 that he ran in a 1 1/16th mile allowance race at Santa Anita the race before he won the Santa Anita Handicap. And he has Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens as his rider. He is a closer and I feel that closers will have a shot in this race. So don’t discount the 20-1 longshot.

Overall, I feel this race is wide-open, there is no heavy favorite so expect better payouts than your average race. I am leaning towards a $10 Boxed Exacta of Melatonin, Hard Aces and Hoppertunity (7,3,6) but I have a feeling that we may get a surprise, unexpected result like we did in the Santa Anita Handicap back in March. I recommend seeing the live odds and how the horses look on the track around post-time before making any bets on this one.

–Michael

 

 

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