Overlooked Silver Cup got a good a stalking trip before kicking home impressively in the final sixteenth of a mile to defeat an evenly matched field in the $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the Santa Anita turf course Monday.
Sent off at odds of 7-1, Silver Cup made it back-to-back graded stakes upsets at this Santa Anita meeting for owner Martin S. Schwartz and trainer Patrick Biancone. The 4-year-old daughter of Almutawakel won the 1 1/8-mile San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. II) Jan. 8 at odds of 16-1.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, the Irish-bred Silver Cup overcame her outside post position in the field of 11 in drawing off to a three-quarters of a length victory over the pacesetter Elusive Diva, who nosed the French invader Mirabilis in the one-mile event. The time was 1:34 4/5. Silver Cup carried 116 pounds, two less than Elusive Diva and Mirabilis.
Pierre Bellocq, assistant to Biancone (who was in Florida Monday), credited Espinoza with putting Silver Cup into the race quickly.
"He eliminated the 13 post right away, before the first turn," he said. "She keeps trying, even though it looked like she might not make it down the stretch. She just kept on grinding. We're tickled to death."
Ticker Tape, the morning line favorite who was sent off a slight second choice to 7-2 favorite Mirabilis, had a clean trip but failed to respond in the stretch and finished fourth.
Silver Cup was able to settle in third on the outside as Elusive Diva, ridden by John Court, set off on a lonely lead with Mirabilis and Flip Flop also tracking. Elusive Diva set fractions of :23 2/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11. With a furlong left, it looked like Elusive Diva might be the first gate-to-wire turf winner at Santa Anita in several weeks, but Silver Cup rallied in the middle of the track under left-handed urging from Espinoza with another impressive late response.
"Everything worked out perfect for me. I saw the speed horse (Elusive Diva) was inside of me, so that kind of helped me because I wanted to follow her and jump on her," Espinoza said. "I didn't want to be too wide on the turn, and it worked out perfect. You've got to get into her. Twenty yards from the wire, she really kicks in."
Silver Cup won four races in a row in Italy, including the Italian Oaks (Ity-I) last May before shipping to the United States for the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park where she ran seventh. The dark bay filly was competitive in three subsequent starts before breaking through in the San Gorgonio with a late move similar to the one she displayed Monday. She now has won seven of 12 in her career with earnings of $469,485.
The fourth choice, she paid $16.20, $8.20, and $5.80, combining with Elusive Dvia - who returned $8.60 and $5.40 - for a $131.60 exacta. The Juddmonte-owned Mirabilis, in her second start in the U.S. for trainer Bobby Frankel, was $4 to show.
It was a half-length back to Ticker Tape, who finished a neck in front of Shining Energy. They were followed by Toupie, Royal Copenhagen, Katdogawn, Halo Ola, Beautyandthebeast, and Flip Flop. Awesome Lady and Three Degrees were scratched.