Jockey Chris McCarron thought he had earned his first Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) win Sunday when Futural crossed the finish line 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Aptitude in the Hollywood Park feature. The veteran rider, however, still remains winless in the 1 1/4-mile race after Futural was disqualified and placed third following a lengthy inquiry into an incident at the top of the stretch. Aptitude was then awarded the win in the $750,000 race, giving jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. his eighth career Gold Cup win. The win ties Pincay with Willie Shoemaker for most Gold Cup wins by a jockey.
"I'll take it any way I can," Pincay said.
"Me too," trainer Bobby Frankel concurred.
The stewards ruled that Futural interfered with Skimming as Futural swept to the lead. Skimming then brushed with Captain Steve before finishing third on the track and being placed second due to the disqualification.
"It was an obvious foul. He knocked him off his feet. He didn't give him much of a chance, but it worked out good. I can't complain," Frankel said. "They're the greatest, the stewards. I'll be quiet for the rest of the year."
McCarron, though, didn't see it as an obvious foul.
"I thought the contact was incidental. It was so brief and slight it didn't make any difference in the race," he said. "They could have penalized me afterward. They didn't have any right to penalize the owner and trainer, especially when the second- and third-place finishers have the same owner."
Steward Thomas Ward said Futural was the best horse, but officials believed the bump cost Skimming and jockey Garrett Gomez a placing.
"Interference was significant," Ward said in a statement.
The win gave Juddmonte Farms and Frankel their second grade I win on the day via disqualification. Minutes before the Gold Cup was run, Frankel-trained Senure was awarded first in the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park after With Anticipation was disqualified for impeding Senure as the Frankel trainee rallied in the stretch.
"What a day of ups and downs," said Frankel, too busy saddling the entry of Aptitude and Skimming to watch the United Nations.
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Aptitude rallied from last in the five-horse field to finish second, finishing three lengths ahead of Skimming after Futural ran the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.79. Captain Steve came home fourth, a length behind Skimming and 28 lengths ahead of longshot Power Wing.
Power Wing set the early pace as Skimming kept Captain Steve wide during the run to the first turn. Power Wing maintained a half-length advantage over Skimming through an opening half-mile run in :46.78 before the pacesetter tired on the backstretch giving Skimming the lead. Captain Steve quickly countered on the inside, racing head-to-head with Skimming around the second turn as Futural loomed up on the outside. Those three emerged together at the head of the stretch before Futural edged in on Skimming as he went to the lead on the outside. Futural then weaved through the stretch on his way to the wire as Aptitude rallied to pass Captain Steve and Skimming.
The marks the first in a stakes race for Aptitude, who has previously posted second-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and the Gotham Stakes (gr. III). The 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy -- Dokki, by Northern Dancer, earned $450,000 for the win to increase his career earnings over the $1-million mark. The win improves his career record to three wins from 12 starts.
The Juddmonte Farms entry of Aptitude and Skimming returned $5.20 and $4, with no show wagering due to the short field. The $1 exacta, completed by Futural, paid $7.80.
Captain Steve failed in his bid to become the first horse to sweep Hollywood Park's major races for 2-year-olds (Hollywood Futurity, gr. I), 3-year-olds (Swaps Stakes, gr. I), and older horses.
"Two weeks' rest wasn't enough," trainer Bob Baffert said, referring to the 4-year-old horse's second-place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. II). "We took a shot and it didn't work. He didn't have a bite at the end." (Chart, Equibase