Brooklyn Handicap winner Limehouse faces nine in Saturday's Hollywood Gold Cup.

Brooklyn Handicap winner Limehouse faces nine in Saturday's Hollywood Gold Cup.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Limehouse Tops Contentious Gold Cup Field

(from Hollywood Park report)
Dogwood Stable's Limehouse, recent winner of Belmont Park's Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II), is the likely favorite as he attempts to become the first Eastern-based horse since Skip Away in 1998 to capture Hollywood Park's signature event, the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), on Saturday.

Limehouse, to be ridden by 2004 Eclipse Award-winning jockey and current national leader John Velazquez, will face nine opponents in the 66th running of the 1 1/4-mile classic. Eleven national champions beginning with Seabiscuit in the 1938 inaugural have won the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Another Easterner, Perfect Drift, was a late defection when entries were taken on Wednesday because of a reported eye ailment. However, no larger field has contested the Gold Cup since 1986 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Ferdinand was victorious among eleven runners in 1987.

With the retirement of 2004 national champion Ghostzapper and the sidelining of West Coast standout Rock Hard Ten, a competitive Gold Cup this year could bear significantly on the shaping of racing's handicap division. The race has been returned to handicap status after being run under weight-for-age conditions since 1997.

The open nature of the race is reflected by the six-pound spread of weights among the ten entrants.

Limehouse, co-second high weight at 117 pounds behind Lava Man's 118, is on a roll for Todd Pletcher, last year's Eclipse Award-winning trainer. Prior to his victory in the Brooklyn, the 4-year-old Grand Slam colt took the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"He's doing very well at this time," Pletcher said of the chestnut who has banked $1,062,433 from an overall record of 7-2-3 in 17 lifetime starts.

Congrats, second behind Rock Hard Ten in the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) after winning San Anita's San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) by 5 1/2 lengths, is expected to be the second choice. Owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, the 5-year-old Richard Mandella trainee shows earnings of $888,960 from a record of 7-2-4 in 20 lifetime starts.

High weight Lava Man is fresh off a victory in the Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park on June 18 for STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood. Eight winners of The Californian have gone on to take the Gold Cup. A 4-year-old bay gelding, Lava Man could provide leading Hollywood Park trainer Doug O'Neill with his second Gold Cup victory by a California-bred. Sky Jack won in 2002 for O'Neill. Lava Man's record is 6-7-2 in 23 starts for earnings of $458,039.

$750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I, Race 8, 4:53 p.m.), 3 & up, 1 1/4 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Limehouse (FL), 117, John R. Velazquez
2. Borrego (KY), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
3. Deputy Lad (FL), 112, Jon Kenton Court
4. Pt's Grey Eagle (KY), 113, Corey S. Nakatani
5. Anziyan Royalty (CA), 115, Alex O. Solis
6. Congrats (KY), 117, Tyler Baze
7. Lava Man (CA), 118, Patrick A. Valenzuela
8. Musique Toujours (CA), 114, Victor Espinoza
9. Al Arz (BRZ), 113, David Romero Flores
10. Keep On Punching (KY), 113, Rene R. Douglas