Trainer Doug O'Neill, perfect in four previous tries in the TVG/Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), shoots for his fifth win since 2002 when he saddles Informed for the $700,000 Cushion Track event July 11.
A 5-year-old son of Tiznow , Informed captured the Californian (gr. II), Hollywood Park's major Gold Cup preview, on June 13 when he outfought Rail Trip in deep stretch for Tyler Baze to score by three-quarters of a length as a 14-1 outsider.
A follow-up win will be no easy task for Informed, who was claimed for $25,000 in June 2008 and scored his first stakes victory in the nine-furlong Californian. The Gold Cup, at 1 1/4 miles, drew an evenly-matched 13-horse field. If all start, it would be the largest Gold Cup field since the great Quack topped a 14-horse field in 1972.
This is the 70th renewal of one of California's greatest handicap events, and it could be its final running if an approved commercial and residential development for the 238-acre Inglewood site forces the track's closure. The Gold Cup goes as the eighth race on the program at 4:30 p.m. on the West Coast.
Parading, winner of the Dixie Stakes (gr. II) on the Pimlico lawn in his last start, is the 119-pound high weight among a group that also includes the grade I winner Life Is Sweet, looking to become become the first female in 41 years to win the event. Life Is Sweet was assigned 113 pounds, just one less than Parading when the five-pound female allowance is considered. Parading is the 4-1 morning line favorite, while Life Is Sweet is pegged at 9-2.
Rail Trip, Dakota Phone, and Song Of Navarone, who all finished within a length of Informed last time, eastern shipper Bullsbay , and defending champion Mast Track all could have a big say in the outcome. There are 10 graded or group winners set to go.
Informed, owned by W.C. Racing, Russ Sarno, and Westside Rentals.com, will try to maintain O'Neill's clean slate in the Gold Cup. O'Neill won with Sky Jack in 2002 and enjoyed three consecutive victories by Lava Man from 2005-2007. Informed is a 6-1 early line choice.
“It would be great if we could do it again,” O'Neill said earlier in the week before leaving on a Mediterranean cruise. “It doesn’t seem like the extra distance will bother him. The biggest thing is getting a good trip. He got a real good ride last time from Tyler.”
O'Neill, runaway leader in the current Hollywood Park trainers' standings, was on a vacation in Ireland when Lava Man matched legendary Native Diver with his third Gold Cup win in 2007.
Baze rode Informed hard for the final three furlongs of the Californian to keep the bay horse's mind on business. The tactic worked as he wore down a game Rail Trip for the victory. Informed breaks from post 12 with 117 pounds.
Much of the interest in this year's Gold Cup will center on Pam and Martin Wygod's Life Is Sweet, who was spotted here by trainer John Shirreffs rather than against her stablemate Zenyatta in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) two weeks ago. Zenyatta defeated Life Is Sweet rather handily in the May 23 Milady Handicap (gr. II), which was the 4-year-old Storm Cat filly's last start.
Life Is Sweet had a three-race win streak at Santa Anita prior to that, winning the El Encino (gr. II), La Canada (gr. II), and Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) in succession on the Pro-Ride racing surface. She has five wins and three seconds in 11 starts. She, along with Parading and Informed, is one of several starters that will be trying the 10-furlong distance for the first time in the Gold Cup.
Princessnesian became the third female to win the Gold Cup in 1968, joining Happy Issue (1944) and Two Lea (1952). Not many have tried in the last three decades. Life Is Sweet, who will be ridden by two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez, will be the first to start in the Gold Cup since Kilijaro finished seventh in 1981.
Phipps Stable's Parading enters with consecutive victories in Keeneland's Ben Ali (gr. III) on Polytrack and the Dixie, which was May 16. The Shug McGaughey-trained 6-year-old son of Pulpit has really come around of late while logging a 7-4-2 career mark in 17 starts.
Rail Trip, a 4-year-old by Jump Start , won his first five starts for Jay Em Ess Stable and trainer Ron Ellis, but was the beaten favorite in the Mervyn LeRoy (gr. II) and the Californian, finishing second in each. The bay gelding, who should be on the lead, will only be making his seventh start in the Gold Cup.
Bullsbay, a shipper from trainer Graham Motion's Maryland base, won stakes at Laurel and Churchill Downs before finishing in a dead heat for fourth in Churchill's June 13 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) , losing by only 1 1/4 lengths. Also a 5-year-old son of Tiznow, the grade III winner has won six of 16 starts.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel will be represented by defending champion Mast Track, a horse he bred and owns. Frankel will be aiming for his fourth Gold Cup win.
Mast Track got away with slow fractions under Baze en route to a 10-1 upset in the 2008 Gold Cup. He was third in his next start in the Pacific Classic (gr. I), but he has finished off the board in his last four races. David Flores is aboard this time.
Dakota Phone charged from far back to miss the runner-up spot by a head to Rail Trip in the Californian and retains the services of Rafael Bejarano. Owned by Halo Farms and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 4-year-old has run well all year, finishing second in the San Fernando (gr. II) and third in the Mervyn LeRoy.
The 8-year-old gelding Big Booster, who will be making his 50th start, has two prior tries in the Gold Cup, finishing third in 2007 and fifth in 2008. He has won 10 races and $820,623, his biggest victory coming in the 2008 San Juan Capistrano (gr. IIT) on turf for trainer Mike Mitchell.
George Coleman's New Mexico-based Song of Navarone finished a willing fourth in The Californian. Trained by Henry Dominguez, he won his first three starts of 2009 at Sunland Park before finishing third two races back in the Texas Mile (gr. III) at Lone Star Park. The 5-year-old son of 1992 Gold Cup winner Sultry Song is an eight-time winner of $682,158.
Autism Awareness, who scored a 62-1 upset in the 2008 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows, has won two of his last three starts including the Berkeley (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields May 25 at odds of 30-1. The 4-year-old is owned by Johnny Taboada, whose son Renzo has autism.
Tres Borrachos posted an 11-1 upset at Hollywood in the 2008 Swaps (gr. II) for trainer Beau Greely and partners. He is coming off his first victory in four starts this year, beating an allowance field at Hollywood by three lengths going 1 1/16 miles May 25.
Argentine-bred Magnum won the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at nine furlongs in February for trainer Darrell Viena and has been off the board in three subsequent starts, including a fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). The 8-year-old finished fourth in the 2006 Gold Cup in his only other race at Hollywood.
Global Hunter, also an Argentine-bred, has won six of 23 starts, all but one of the victories coming on turf. He won a group II race in his native country in 2007.
$700,000 TVG/Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Autism Awareness (CA), D G Lopez, 114, G Vallejo, 30/1
2. Big Booster (KY), J Rosario, 115, M R Mitchell, 12/1
3. Mast Track (KY), D R Flores, 114, R J Frankel, 20/1
4. Bullsbay (KY), J Rose, 118, H G Motion, 8/1
5. Parading (KY), K J Desormeaux, 119, C R McGaughey III, 4/1
6. Dakota Phone (KY), R Bejarano, 116, J Hollendorfer, 6/1
7. Song of Navarone (KY), V Espinoza, 117, H Dominguez, 12/1
8. Rail Trip (KY), J Valdivia, Jr., 116, R W Ellis, 5/1
9. Tres Borrachos (KY), J Talamo, 114, C B Greely, 30/1
10. Life Is Sweet (KY), G K Gomez, 113, J A Shirreffs, 9/2
11. Global Hunter (ARG), C S Nakatani, 115, A C Avila, 20/1
12. Informed (KY), T Baze, 117, D F O'Neill, 6/1
13. Magnum (ARG), M A Pedroza, 115, D Vienna, 12/1