Seek Gold, 91-1 upset winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) in his last start, arrived at Hollywood Park from Louisville on Wednesday afternoon with a new giant to slay – Lava Man in Saturday's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).
"Everything has gone okay so far," trainer Ron Moquett said. "He's created a lot of excitement around our area and we're real happy to take him on the road."
Seek Gold was purchased in a nine-horse package by Ted Bowman after he and Moquett dined with Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito on the eve of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). In his first start for Bowman, the 6-year-old gelded son of Touch Gold rallied late to nail Perfect Drift at the wire in the Foster, paying a record $185.40 and give the owner and trainer their first Grade I win.
"That just proved that good things and good luck can happen," Moquett said. "It probably ranks right below seeing my children born. It was very exciting."
Bowman, 51, and Moquett, 34, are both from Fort Smith, Ark., although they did not meet until early this year at Oaklawn Park. Bowman paid $5,000 when claiming his first horse in January. He later claimed El Merlot for $10,000 because his fiancé, Kristi Couch, has a taste for red wine. Moquett was not the trainer, but he recommended the claim.
"I just didn't have room, but a friend asked me to help him find a horse," Moquett said. "I said, 'I can't do it, but this is one that's worth the money, go get him.' And he (Bowman) graduated pretty fast from there. If he is in town, he will come to the barn every morning. Not one of these guys that want to tell you everything, he just wants to be close to the horses, and he loves to listen to people talk." Moquett, a friend of Zito, was told former owner Robert LaPenta wanted to sell nine horses and began working on the deal."Nick knew the man wanted to get rid of the horses and he wanted me to have them," Moquett said. "He was very instrumental in me getting the horses and very helpful afterwards. As a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with him. He was very pumped up about us coming to California."Seek Gold, who earned $502,647 in the Foster to increase his earnings to $878,636, had shown promise last fall."He had run a big race in the Clark and beat Perfect Drift that day and was second only to (eventual Horse of the Year) Saint Liam," Moquett said. "This horse has beaten himself a lot at the gate and he's kind of a hard guy to deal with in the saddling area, but everything fell into place for us in the Foster."Moquett is quick to point out the support he has received since taking over the training duties."Understand this," he said. "I've still got a Hall of Fame trainer I can pick up the phone and call."He also would not be here without jockey Calvin Borel.
"Calvin is probably one of the smartest horsemen out there," he said. "He gets to the barn, he checks legs, he does all kinds of stuff. Eventually he'll probably be a world-class trainer. He's not one of these guys that pull up in a BMW and drops off donuts. He comes to the barn to help.
"It is definitely a team effort. If he couldn't go, I wouldn't go. If he didn't think the horse felt right, I wouldn't go. We live and die as a team."Moquett is hopeful of another major effort in the Gold Cup, but he has no illusions regarding Lava Man. Seek Gold will carry 117 pounds, seven less than the 4-5 morning line favorite."We're running, in my mind, against the best horse in the nation," he said. "We need all the help. It would take a team effort to beat him, I believe."