It seems fitting that the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years will make an appearance on Gold Cup day. The Grade 1 event, run for decades at Hollywood Park and now as the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, is a pillar of American racing's long history. Seabiscuit took the first running in 1938 and the list of victors since then has included Triple Crown champions, Kentucky Derby winners, Horse of the Year champions, and many other greats of the game.
This year's edition, a “Win and You're In” race for the Breeders' Cup Classic, goes as race nine Saturday and will be televised on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. American Pharoah will be paraded between the seventh and eighth races. This year's Gold Cup field is led by a trio of Grade 1 winners in Moreno, Hoppertunity, and Finnegans Wake, as well as Catch a Flight, who began racing in the U.S. this year and has collected back-to-back graded stakes victories.
The undercard features a G1 for top sprinters, the Triple Bend Handicap, plus the G2 Royal Heroine and G3 Senorita Stakes, both at a mile on the turf.
Three-year-old fillies will be in the spotlight in the weekend's other G1 race, the Mother Goose at Belmont Park. It's also a big day at Prairie Meadows, with a trio of G3 events anchoring Saturday's card, led by the Cornhusker Handicap and the Iowa Derby.
A lot of good betting races to choose from, so it's a great time to take advantage of Xpressbet's exclusive offer for Paulick Report readers. Use the promo code PAULICKR when you sign up for a wagering account and receive up to $125 back from Xpressbet the day after you wager your first $100.
Let's see how the two teams will spend their fictional $100 bankrolls this weekend.
Xpressbet Handicapper: Dustin Fabian, Xpressbet.com
Triple Bend Stakes, Grade 1, Santa Anita, 7 Furlongs
One of the first things I do when handicapping the races is check to see if any of the riders are jumping off one horse to ride another. In this year's Triple Bend, Rafael Bejarano opts to ride #4 SAHARA SKY over #6 WILD DUDE, while Mike Smith lands on #7 HOLY LUTE over #2 SAN ONOFRE. Those aren't guarantees that the horses they chose will run better, but they're nice hints. Plus, SAHARA SKY was going to be my top choice anyway. He's going to get a lot of pace to run at and the 7yo may have been a bit rusty when third, beaten just a length, in the G2 Kona Gold in April. #5 MASOCHISTIC and SAN ONOFRE, who beat him that day, are back but will have to stretch their speed an extra sixteenth of a mile to hold off my pick.
The Play: $15 Exacta #4 Sahara Sky / #5 Masochistic, #7 Holy Lute ($30 wagered)
Royal Heroine Stakes, Grade 2, Santa Anita, 1 Mile Turf
There's a lot of speed signed on in this one, which should ensure an honest pace. That makes #1 BLINGISMYTHING awfully enticing. She's right at home going a mile and I thought the result of her last race, a strong third in the G1 Gamely, was a byproduct of a slower pace and her going longer than she prefers. The cutback in distance, coupled with a cozy inside draw, should allow her to save ground and punch home when Tyler Baze pushes the button.
The Play: $20 Win #1 Blingismything; $2 Exacta #1 Blingismything / #4 Birdlover, #7 Fanticola, #8 Queen of the Sand ($26 wagered)
The Gold Cup at Santa Anita, Grade 1, Santa Anita, 1 1/4 Miles
The only two horses I'm thinking about playing on the win end in the Gold Cup are #9 CATCH A FLIGHT and #6 HOPPERTUNITY. I've been down this road with #8 MORENO too many times, and his abysmal records at the distance and track make him tough to support. Plus, CATCH A FLIGHT reeled him in last out in the G2 Californian, and I'd expect more of the same this time around. The biggest threat to CATCH A FLIGHT, for my money, is HOPPERTUNITY. I don't think he was nearly sharp enough for the G1 Stephen Foster two weeks ago, and my thinking is that race tightened the screws for this one. If he gets a pace to run at, he's going to be heard from late in a big way.
The Play: $10 Exacta Box #6 Hoppertunity, #9 Catch a Flight; $2 Trifecta Key #9 Catch a Flight / #2 Hard Aces, #6 Hoppertunity, #8 Moreno; $2 Trifecta Key #6 Hoppertunity / #2 Hard Aces, #8 Moreno, #9 Catch a Flight ($44 Wagered)
Paulick Report Handicapper: Scott Jagow, Editor-in-Chief
Gold Cup at Santa Anita
With all the speed signed on, the favorite CATCH A FLIGHT (5-2), looms dangerous coming from off the pace. But I'm intrigued by FINNEGANS WAKE (6-1), who will also benefit from the swift early fractions. I think he'll be somewhat ignored in the wagering because his excellent recent form has come on the turf, and he's 0-2 on the dirt. Those races were some time ago, and he's in the best shape of his career. I know he's at least a serious threat to hit the board.
The Play: $10 to win, #11 Finnegans Wake, $5 exacta box, Finnegans Wake/#9 Catch a Flight, $1 trifecta, Catch a Flight/ALL/Finnegans Wake ($30 total)
Cornhusker Handicap, Grade 3, Prairie Meadows, 1 1/8 Miles
This is an excellent betting affair with no clear-cut favorite. Last year's winner CARVE (7-2) deserves respect, as he's faced some pretty good racehorses this year and held his own. TAPITURE (4-1) is among them, but he just hasn't been as good as he was last year. I'm going with GOLDEN LAD (9-2). He finished behind the pair I just mentioned at Oaklawn in April but appears to be sitting on a big race for Todd Pletcher, having returned from a brief spell to win a stakes by five at Penn National.
The Play: $20 to win, #4 Golden Lad
Firecracker Stakes, Grade 2, Churchill Downs, 1 Mile, Turf
FRAC DADDY (5-2) and DEPARTING (3-1) lead the way in this field of nine, but SKY FLIGHT (4-1) appears poised to grab his first graded stakes victory. The lightly-raced 4-year-old just missed in the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes last out in January, and while the considerable time off is a bit concerning, I'm betting trainer Mark Casse has the Sky Mesa colt ready to fire with hot rider Julien Leparoux aboard.
The Play: $20 to win, #2 Sky Flight
San Juan Capistrano Stakes, G3, Santa Anita, 1 3/4 miles, Turf
GOING SOMEWHERE (1-1) is one of the likeliest winners on this weekend's slate. He failed to take 'em the distance in the G2 Charlie Wittingham a month ago, but that was his initial start in the U.S. and first race since October. With virtually no other speed in this marathon, jockey Mike Smith can slow things down and lead them gate to wire. PATRIOTS RULE, DECISIVE EDGE, and GOLDEN SOUL will battle it out for second.
The Play: $10 exacta key, #6 Going Somewhere/#1 Patriots Rule, #2 Decisive Edge, #3 Golden Soul ($30 total)
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