Multi-millionaires Congaree and Harlan's Holiday, whose accomplishments bear striking similarities, will seek advanced distinction on Sunday by becoming the 63rd Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) champion since Seabiscuit in the 1938 inaugural.
The bicoastal Congaree has been installed as the 8-5 favorite over 2-1 Eastern-based Harlan's Holiday among seven entrants in Hollywood Park's $750,000 signature event on a day that racing will formally bid farewell to recently retired Laffit Pincay Jr.
Pincay, who announced his retirement on April 29 after sustaining neck injuries in a March 1 spill at Santa Anita Park, exits the sport at age 56 with an unequaled 9,530 riding victories. Many of the nation's top jockeys, past and present, will join in tribute to Pincay during a ceremony following the sixth race.
Hollywood Park will give away posters of Pincay created by internationally known artist/cartoonist Peb. A special first post of 1 p.m. has been instituted. And, for the ten-race card, the track has guaranteed a Pick Six pool of $1 million.
Pincay won the Gold Cup for a record ninth time last year aboard Sky Jack. The Gold Cup, piece de resistance of the meet, will be run as the ninth race with a 5:40 post, PDT. The race will climax a stakes tripleheader and be televised live on ESPN 2.
The Gold Cup will be supported by a pair of grade II stakes, the $400,000 Swaps Stakes, headed by Belmont Stakes runner-up Ten Most Wanted, and the $250,000 A Gleam Invitational Handicap, featuring trainer Bobby Frankel's You.
Seven starters are scheduled to go in the Gold Cup. Each carries 124 pounds under weight-for-age conditions.
Jerry Bailey, the nation's leading rider, will be reunited with Congaree in his quest for a fifth Gold Cup riding victory within a dozen years. Pincay holds the Gold Cup record at nine victories and was aboard Sky Jack in last year's winning effort.
After three graded stakes wins atop Congaree, Bailey and the chestnut son of Arazi missed by a head to Milwaukee Brew when favored at odds-on in the March 1 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I).
Congaree has not raced since fading to sixth as the 4-5 favorite over a sloppy Belmont Park surface in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) with Gary Stevens in the saddle on May 26. The Stonerside Stable 5-year-old, trained by Bob Baffert, will take earnings of $2,283,400 into the 64th Gold Cup. Congaree's record is 10-1-4 in 19 starts.
Harlan's Holiday has raced 20 times while posting a 9-5-1 record for earnings of $3,482,664. The Ohio-bred 4-year-old, trained by Todd Pletcher for Starlight Stable, has earned $1,535,100 from but four starts this year. He won Gulfstream Park's $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I), but his biggest financial boost came from his second to internationally top-ranked Moon Ballad in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on March 29 in the United Arab Emirates.
In his only race since the Dubai World Cup, Harlan's Holiday broke poorly in the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park on June 14. He finished last in a five-horse field over a sloppy racetrack.
Like Baffert with Congaree's last race over an off-track, Pletcher dismisses the Brooklyn Handicap for Harlan's Holiday because of circumstances and racing conditions. Regular rider John Velazquez, who ranks fifth nationally, flies in from New York to ride the bay colt. Velazquez will be competing in his first Gold Cup.
Other Gold Cup contenders include Kudos, whose $1,148,935 earnings and seven victories in 23 starts include the $400,000 Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood on June 14, and Western Pride, who flopped when favored in the Californian but who previously ran second to Mineshaft in the Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. I).
Western Pride is a 5-year-old whose 10-4-1 record in 26 starts has generated earnings of $1,263,819. Kudos, with a come-from-behind style that may prove beneficial among speedier type opponents, is the 3-1 third choice on the morning line. $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), 3 & up, 1 1/4 mile
PP. Jockey, ML Odds
1. Rodion, David Flores, 30-1
2. Golden Ticket, Patrick Valenzuela, 15-1
3. Kudos, Alex Solis, 3-1
4. Congaree, Jerry Bailey, 8-5
5. Western Pride, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 10-1
6. Harlan's Holiday, John Velazquez, 2-1
7. Piensa Sonando, Gary Stevens, 8-1
All starters carry 124 pounds.Ten Most Wanted Heads Swaps Line-Up
After beating storied Funny Cide when second to Empire Maker in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Ten Most Wanted is expected to be a solid favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Pat Day, who became the active leader in career victories when Pincay retired, will be at Hollywood Park to ride Ten Most Wanted. Trained by Wally Dollase for a partnership, Ten Most Wanted was three-quarters of a length behind Empire Maker at the Belmont finish line. He earlier won the Illinois Derby (gr. II) by four lengths.
Ten Most Wanted will have to contend with Eye of the Tiger in the Swaps. The bay colt owned by John Gunther and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer ran off with the June 22 Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood by 4 1/2 lengths. He previously outfinished a troubled Ten Most Wanted in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) when running fifth to Funny Cide. Eye of the Tiger was three lengths ahead of his rival Saturday.$400,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. II), 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. a-Ten Most Wanted, Pat Day, 122
2. a-Logician, Corey Nakatani, 112
3. Blazonry, Mike Smith, 118
4. Bullistic, Patrick Valenzuela, 112
5. During, Jerry Bailey, 112
6. Eye Of The Tiger, Alex Solis, 118
7. Outta Here, Tyler Baze, 120
a-entryYou has Class Edge in A Gleam Handicap
You is the most accomplished entrant in the seven-furlong A Gleam Invitational Handicap for fillies and mares at seven furlongs. The 4-year-old filly has banked $1,891,353 with a 9-5-2 mark in 19 starts.
Bailey will ride the 121-pound high weight, a Kentucky-bred daughter of You and I owned by Edmund A. Gann.
Her main rival will be 5-year-old Affluent, 119 pounds, who has chased reigning Horse of the Year Azeri in five of her last nine starts. Affluent, nonetheless, has won 8 of 22 starts while banking $1,467,651.$250,000 A Gleam Invitational Handicap (gr. II), fillies & mares, 3 & up, 7 furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. You, Jerry Bailey, 121
2. Bear Fan, David Flores, 114
3. Brisquette, Alex Solis, 114
4. Cee's Elegance, Victor Espinoza, 116
5. Affluent, Gary Stevens, 119
6. Wild Tickle, Day, 113