Defending Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Rail Trip will carry top weight of 123 pounds when he attempts to become just the third multiple winner of the prestigious race in its 71-year history July 10 at Hollywood Park.
Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Ron Ellis, Rail Trip is also seeking to become the first horse to sweep the Mervyn LeRoy (gr. II), Californian (gr. II), and Gold Cup in the same year since Eleven Stitches in 1981. Eleven Stitches won the '81 Gold Cup on the disqualification of Caterman.
Rail Trip can join Native Diver (1965-67) and Lava Man (2005-07) as the only multiple winners of the Gold Cup, which is worth $500,000 this year. Both Native Diver and Lava Man won the fixture three consecutive times.
The 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, which attracted a field of seven to Hollywood's Cushion Track, goes as the eighth race on the program at 4:35 p.m. PDT. It is one of two grade I events on the card, along with the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap at seven furlongs, which is the sixth race.
Ellis won his first Gold Cup when 9-1 shot Rail Trip—racing as usual near the lead—cleared off in the homestretch for a three-length win last year over pacesetting Tres Borrachos, who is back for this year's renewal as well.
Off for nearly eight months following a career-worst third-place finish in Del Mar's Pacific Classic (gr. I) last August, Rail Trip has returned to his home track this spring in sensational style. The 5-year-old Jump Start gelding was ridden out to lopsided victories in both the 1 1/16-mile Mervyn LeRoy May 8 and the 1 1/8-mile Californian June 12.
Rafael Bejarano, who took over the riding chores on Rail Trip this year, will break the leggy bay from post 6. Rail Trip, who has won eight of 11 starts with two seconds and earned $967,790, will spot his rivals from two to 10 pounds. He worked five furlongs on the Cushion Track in 1:01 on the morning of July 5.
Richard's KId, who defeated Rail Trip when he upset the Pacific Classic at 24-1 odds, returns to action under 121 pounds in the Gold Cup for owners Zabeel Racing International and trainer Bob Baffert. Richard's Kid, a Maryland-bred 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid , has not raced since finishing seventh in the $10 million Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) at Meydan March 27. He won the San Antonio Hnadicap (gr. II) Feb. 7 at Santa Anita in his only other start this year and will be making his Hollywood Park debut here.
“I think it’s a good spot for him to start back,” said Baffert. “He needs to be going long and it should set him up good for Del Mar. I think Rail Trip will be awful tough to beat.”
Jockey Martin Garcia, increasingly becoming Baffert's go-to guy, rides Richard's Kid for the first time. A lifetime earner of $891,370 with seven wins in 23 races, Richard's Kid will break from post 4 and will not use Salix. Baffert is in search of his third Gold Cup win, winning previously with Congaree in 2003 and Real Quiet in 1999.
Four-year-old Compari, who has recorded five of his six lifetime wins on grass, will try the Cushion Track for the first time since winning the Snow Chief Stakes over fellow California breds in April 2009. Trained by Marty Jones for owners/breeders Harris Farms, Donald Valpredo and John Nicoletti, the son of Redattore had his six-race winning streak halted in a seventh-place showing following a rough trip in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) on the Hollywood turf May 30.
That was one of only two losses in the eight-race career of Compari, whose biggest win came prior to the Shoemaker in Santa Anita's Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) April 3. To be ridden by Mike Smith for the first time, Compari, breaking from post 2 with 117 pounds, can be counted upon to provide an honest pace.
Jones scratched Compari from the American Handicap July 4 to run in the Gold Cup. “We had been wanting to try him back on the main track,” Jones said. “He’s won here, and it’s a big race. We’re going to take a shot.”
The always-tough 7-year-old gelding Awesome Gem returns to Southern California after a three-race road trip through the South that included a third-place finish in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds and runner-up showings in the Charles Town Classic and Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) in his most recent start May 31. Trained by Craig Dollase for West Point Thoroughbreds, the Awesome Again gelding boasts earnings of $1,974,682 over a 35-race career than includes six wins, 13 seconds and four thirds.
Tres Borrachos has lost eight times since last year's runner-up Gold Cup effort and has just one victory in 13 starts over the past two years. The Beau Greely-trained 5-year-old son of Ecton Park is coming off a seventh in the Californian. But all three of his lifetime wins have come at Hollywood, including the 2008 Swaps Stakes (gr. II). He carries 113 pounds.
“He’s got ability, he’s been training well, there’s nothing wrong with him, and he’s got a good record at Hollywood Park,” Greely noted.
Tap It Light could be the latest of Mike Mitchell's many high-priced claims in recent years—horses such as Ever a Friend, Leprechaun Kid, Church Service and On the Acorn—who went on to accomplish much more. Tap It Light, a 6-year-old son of General Meeting, won the 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita March 27, so the distance should not be a problem. Tap It Light, has won three of fives starts for his new connections since being claimed for $40,000 from Jerry Hollendorfer last August at Del Mar.
Cigar Man recently worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 for trainer Vladimir Cerin. He ran third in the Mervyn LeRoy and fifth in the Californian.
$500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (gr. I, Race 8, 4:35 p.m. PDT), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Cigar Man (FL), J Talamo, 113, V Cerin
2. Compari (CA), M E Smith, 117, M F Jones
3. Awesome Gem (KY), D R Flores, 116, C Dollase
4. Richard's Kid (MD), M Garcia, 121 B Baffert
5. Tres Borrachos (KY), V Espinoza, 113, C B Greely
6. Rail Trip (KY), R Bejarano, 123, R W Ellis
7. Tap It Light (CA), T Baze, 114, M R Mitchell