Susan Osborne's (Tarabilla Farm) Melatonin was the stylish 1 1/2-length winner of The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Saturday, completing the elusive Santa Anita Handicap-Gold Cup double for trainer David Hofmans. The Gold Cup at Santa Anita, a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series “Win and You're In” event, earns the 6-year-old son of Kodiak Kowboy an all-entry fees paid berth in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic to be held at Santa Anita this fall. Under Joe Talamo, Melatonin covered 10 furlongs in a sharp 1:59.79 over the fast main track to stamp himself a strong contender for the fall championships.
“The emotions were pretty high,” admitted Hofmans. “I'm normally low key but today I was really nervous. It was his big test today. I thought there were some quality horses in here that he had to beat in order to think about going on (to bigger things). The difference is that today he validated himself. Any horse can beat any horse, on any given day. But to do it again, and maybe even again, then you start thinking.”
The March Santa Anita Handicap was the first graded stakes victory of his career, though due to the race's timing, many of the major classic handicap contenders were overseas to contest the $10 million Dubai World Cup. This Saturday, Melatonin proved his credentials with a second major Grade 1 win, taking down Dubai World Cup third-place finisher Hoppertunity and defending Gold Cup winner Hard Aces along the way.
“I knew I had a lot of horse turning for home, but my horse dug in so nicely,” said Talamo. “I don't know what else to say, he's an unbelievable horse and the sky's the limit.”
Melatonin broke sharply from the outside under Talamo, but was content to rate just off the early pace of Lieutenant Colonel, who left the gate several spots closer to the rail. With a half-length separating that pair, they clocked the first quarter-mile in :23.83 with ears pricked. Hard Aces took up third position along the inner rail, while longshot Win the Space retained clear sailing along the outside in fourth. Hoppertunity was last early on, tracking the rest of the eight-horse field through a half-mile in :47.70.
Lieutenant Colonel stretched his lead to 1 1/2 lengths approaching the half-mile pole, and posted the three-quarter mile fraction in 1:11.48. Through the far turn, Melatonin inched up and angled to the two-path to mount his challenge, but was surprisingly joined in that effort by Win the Space. Hoppertunity made his advance up the inside rail, awaiting clear running room, while Hard Aces' jockey Santiago Gonzalez waited until the head of the lane to ask for everything.
Turning for home, Melatonin had a half-length lead, but Win the Space made a valiant move to come up alongside him. Challenged for nearly a sixteenth of a mile, Melatonin wore down his opponent, and stretched his stride willingly toward the wire, pulling away at the end to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Win the Space ran the race of his life to finish second, earning his first graded-stakes placing in his fourth venture into top company. Hard Aces closed well to be third, and Hoppertunity flattened out down the lane to wind up fourth.
“He's a jockey's dream,” said Talamo. “He just does his thing. He does not have to go to the lead. As you saw, he laid second, comfortably. What impressed me the most about him today was when Win the Space came to him at the eighth pole, he just battled back. He gives you everything he's got.”
Bred in Kentucky by S. D. Brilie, L.P., Melatonin was a $20,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. He was purchased privately by Tarabilla Farms after his maiden-breaking effort in February 2014, but the horse contracted a severe case of Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) and was idle for about 18 months. Upon his return to the races, Melatonin seemed to blossom with each race, and put a flourish on his return to the races with the Big ‘Cap win in March. A strong second to Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap, Melatonin then took a two-month freshening to be prepared for the Gold Cup and a run at the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall.
Overall, Melatonin's career record stands at 5-3-3 from 13 starts, with earnings of over $1.2 million.
Watch the race replay here:
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