Females will be well represented in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup Saturday. Miss Match, a 6-year-old mare, seeks to become the first distaffer in 43 years to win the Grade I stake at 1 ¼ miles on Cushion Track.
Jockey Chantal Sutherland, who became the first female jockey to win the Santa Anita Handicap on Game On Dude in March, tries to become the first female rider to win the coveted Gold Cup in its 72nd running.
Sutherland, a 35-year-old Canadian native, is seventh in the standings with 19 wins at the current meet.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a two-time Gold Cup winners, will send out a duo of “Dudes,” Game On Dude with Sutherland and First Dude with Martin Garcia.
The Dudes worked six furlongs in tandem here Sunday morning, First Dude in 1:11.60 under Garcia and Game On Dude in 1:12.20 with exercise rider Gaetano Chapparo.
“The Dudes worked very well; they’re ready,” said Baffert. “We’re going to put Game On Dude on the lead. A mile and a quarter is no problem for him. The distance should not be a problem for First Dude either. He’s like Shaq (Shaquille O’Neill), a big intimidating horse.”
John O’Donoghue, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, confirmed that Miss Match would tackle the boys in the Gold Cup. “She loves the distance,” explained O’Donoghue of the decision. “And she’s in good form now, coming off a good run.”
The Argentine-bred mare comes off a strong third-place finish in the Vanity Handicap at 1 1/8 miles June 18, beaten by three-quarters of a length.
Victorious in six of 22 starts for earnings of $606,614, Miss Match won the Group I Argentine Oaks at 1 ¼ miles in her native land in 2008.
The last female to win the Gold Cup was Princessnesian in 1968, joining Happy Issue in 1944 and Two Lea in 1952.
The last female to start in the Gold Cup, Life Is Sweet, finished third in
A field of eight to eleven is shaping up. Probable are Californian Stakes winner Twirling Candy (Joel Rosario), Californian runner-up Setsuko (Victor Espinoza), Game On Dude (Sutherland), First Dude (Garcia), Miss Match (Alonso Quinonez), Kentucky invader Dark Cove (Rafael Bejarano) and the Paddy Gallagher-trained duo of Soul Candy (Garrett Gomez) and Aggie Engineer.
California Cup Classic winner Soul Candy worked six furlongs in 1:15.40 and Native Diver Handicap winner Aggie Engineer drilled seven furlongs in 1:26.20 for Gallagher.
Possible are defending champion Awesome Gem, grass star Acclamation and Jeranimo. Vanity winner Blind Luck was also nominated and is considered remotely possible.
Don Warren, trainer of Acclamation, said a decision would be reached this week on the 5-year-old, a two-time winner of both the Jim Murray and Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicaps on turf.
“He worked very well at Hollywood Park last week (seven furlongs in 1:25.20 on Cushion Track June 28),” said Warren from his Santa Anita base. “He will work again at Santa Anita in the next couple of days before we decide. It’s just a matter of deciding whether we want to take him off turf, where he has been doing so well. We want to do what’s best for the horse.”
Awesome Gem, an 8-year-old gelding with more than $2.5-million in earnings, finished second in the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows in Iowa on June 25. “I’m not sure yet,” said trainer Craig Dollase on running the veteran back so quickly. “I’ve got until Wednesday (entry day).”
Trainer Mike Pender was pleased with a four-fulong work in 48.60 here Sunday by Jeranimo, a Grade II winner on synthetic and turf. “He had a snappy drill, but we’re still on the fence,” said Pender.
Twirling Candy, victorious in seven of nine starts, will try to make amends for a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the roughly run Santa Anita Handicap, his only outing at 1 ¼ miles.
“A mile and a quarter should be no problem,” said trainer John Sadler confidently after the 4-year-old colt worked seven furlongs in 1:25.20 Saturday.
Affirmed Handicap winner Coil worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.40 Sunday under jockey Martin Garcia for the $150,000 Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds Saturday.
Coil, a son of Point Given, seeks his fourth straight win in the Grade II test at 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Bob Baffert, tied for the lead in Swaps wins with D. Wayne Lukas at four, seeks an unprecedented fifth.
Baffert also worked Swaps nominees Uncle Sam six furlongs in 1:12, Jaycito six furlongs in 1:13.80 and Sinai five furlongs in 1:00.20 and said one could join Coil in the starting gate.
Other probable starters include Affirmed third-place finisher Spud Spivens (Alonso Quinonez) and Boxeur des Rues (Joel Rosario).
Trainer John Sadler listed Affirmed runner-up Runflatout as possible after a six-furlong drill in 1:12.20.
Shotgun Gulch, winner of the Grade I Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April, is scheduled to be shipped here from Texas today for the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap for fillies and mares July 16.
The Grade II test at seven furlongs on Cushion Track is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint November 4 at Churchill Downs.
Shotgun Gulch, a 4-year-old filly by Thunder Gulch, is owned, trained and bred by C.R. Trout. She has won 7 of 18 starts and earned $488,309. She worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.40 at Lone Star Park Saturday before her trip west.
Milady Handicap winner Ultra Blend, another A Gleam candidate, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 Saturday for trainer Art Sherman.
Trainer Barry Abrams will undergo surgery for a recurrence of throat cancer at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena Tuesday.
“I had it six years ago, and it came back,” said Abrams Sunday. “It’s a small mass in a bad area, near the jugular vein and carotid artery. It’s a major surgery, about five hours.
“I should be in the hospital about a week,” said the 57-year-old Arcadia resident. “I’ll recuperate at home watching the races at Del Mar.”
Abrams said that assistant Richard Baltas will supervise his 32-horse stable while he recovers.
“I have no fear; let’s get it done already,” said Abrams.
FINISH LINES—Rafael Bejarano has taken a call on Rumor and Joel Rosario will be aboard Up In Time in the $70,000-added Le Cle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf July 10…Jockey Mike Smith will be in Florida Saturday to ride in the Summit of Speed Day at Calder…Chilean import Ashtar, scratched from the Shoemaker Mile Saturday, worked one mile on turf in 1:43 for trainer Ruben Cardenas for his probable United States debut in the closing-day $100,000 Sunset Handicap at 1 ½ miles on turf July 17…Cambina worked six furlongs on turf in 1:13 for trainer Jeff Bonde for the $250,000 American Oaks on July 16…Eblouissante, a 2-year-old half sister to Zenyatta, worked four furlongs in 52.60 for trainer John Shirreffs…Courageous Cat, winner of the Shoemaker Mile, is scheduled to be flown back to New York this week to rejoin the Bill Mott stable at Belmont Park…Smiling Tiger, winner of the Triple Bend Handicap Saturday, is being pointed to the Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar by trainer Jeff Bonde…Trainer Hector Palma will celebrate his 74th birthday on Monday.
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