The Gold Cup (Grade 1)- $400.000 Purse
SA- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Quarter on the Dirt
May 30, 2022
The excitement on Memorial Day continues with a race that probably could be named after one trainer with the way that they have owned it lately. It is the 19th running of the Grade 1 Gold Cup, sending horses ten furlongs along the main track and a race that has had a few two-time winners. The first one would be Icicle, accomplishing the feat in 2005 and 2006, and then just a couple years later, it would be Barbarino winning in 2008 and 2009. After about a decade, we would get our third two-time winner as Tactical would win in both 2020 and 2021, although last year’s came in a dead heat with Space Commander. Tactical will not be back as he has moved on to his next life, but it is still possible to get a two-time winner here as 2019 winner Champion In Action is a part of the field. Back to Tactical, though, his trainer, Mb Stables has been dominant in the race, winning it six times, which includes four in a row from 2013 until 2016. Then, there would be Tactical the last couple years. He will have two more in this field as he looks to make it seven. The other co-winner of last year’s race, Space Commander, is still active, but not running well enough for Nakamura Stables to nominate him here. After a scratch, we will have a field of ten for this year’s version. Let’s take a look at them!
#1- Strange Magic (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by M J Sanchez)- Claimed for $16.000 in December, and has made three starts with his new trainer though none have ended up in a win. He has not had much stake experience, with a stretch in early 2021 making up the majority of it, then there was the Grade 3 Ali that he attempted last month. The race finishes might make you wonder why he is here, but the SRF’s are what tell the story of why he’s earned his way, getting a 98 SRF in that Ali fourth place run, and general progress since arriving at TwinTowersRacing. Has to beat tough company, though.
#2- Jolly Rook- Scratched
#3- Mintmach (Nakamura Stables, ridden by V R Carrasco)- The famous trainer/jockey combination looks to get to work again as Mintmach hopes for his fourth win in five starts. He was claimed from Nolespan Racing for $35.000 before the stretch began, and had stake success in that barn and now has reached ever greater heights under the guidance of Nakamura. Last month, he turned in a 100 SRF performance in the Californian Stakes right here and would have only won by a greater margin if the race was today’s distance. Plenty to like right here.
#4- Sports Page (John Henry, ridden by D Van Dyke)- Over his career, we have seen Sports Page have plenty of success, including running second in the BC Juvenile and winning the BG Stakes. He would then run in both the KYD and the BEL, finishing third in the latter. He was never able to generate consistency over his three year old campaign and would not be a part of BC weekend. Moving into this year, he has one win and would also run second in the OP Handicap in his last start. Might not have a race style that is ideal for the way many races seem to be won these days, but you would love to see him follow up the OP Handicap with another big run here.
#5- Champion In Action (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Santana Jr)- Compared to other stakes, the Gold Cup has a larger than average amount of horses that have won the race twice, and that’s a good reason to like the winner from 2019. The seven year old gelding did not attempt the race in 2020 or 2021. Last year was another steady season for this one, and we would find his way to the BC Dirt Mile. That did not go well, but it has not bothered him this year, with wins in two of his three races, the Grade 3 LA Stakes and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. In career start #49, he could very well win his second Gold Cup.
#6- Antonym (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- If you thought Champion In Action has raced a lot, he still has more work to do if he wants more career starts than Antonym who runs in #55 here. He was absolutely dominant at the free track, being another example of why the quality of free track racing is better than some think it is. Mb Stables picked him up for $25.000 in a claimer at PEN and put him in an ungraded stake right away. The results weren’t immediate but came eventually when he won the Grade 2 CT Classic in August. He’s continued to win since then. What might have been with this one if he was always racing pay?
#7- Home Spirit (Night Rider Stables, ridden by A Cedillo)- Night Rider Stables may not have run Champion In Action in the Gold Cup last year, but he did race Home Spirit, who ended up finishing 6th. That came off of a strong win in the Calfornian Stakes with a 101 SRF. That’s something that Mintmach will be familiar with but hope for a better result here. Home Spirit was best over the fall, and would win the Grade 3 Seagram Cup Stakes in September. Since then, he has continued to turn in productive results in some very good races. Hopefully, for his sake, the New Orleans Handicap is just a temporary blip. I think it is.
#8- Toxic Personality (Arindel, ridden by R Gutierrez)- Another one of our long time veterans of the track, as the eight year old gelding makes his 48th career start. He’s never been as good as he has been right now, or dating back to when Patterson Stables had him and led him to a victory in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap. He sold him for a $150.000 a couple weeks later. Made his Arindel debut in the Pegasus World Cup this year, and ran second and finished in that same spot in the Grade 3 Ali last month. He’s been a part of the exacta in nine of his last eleven, but there are several in here that have been very productive as of late.
#9- Tempestuous (Mb Stables, ridden by L Saez)- This Fire N Fury gelding has also done a great job lately of finishing either first or second, running in one of those spots ten times in his last twelve races. Has been alternating wins and non-wins lately, but the trainer would like for that pattern to end here since he comes off a victory in the Grade 2 Alysheba. In March, he won a similar race to this one, the SA Handicap, which is also held at ten furlongs. The way he ran those two races could not have been any more different, though he doesn’t usually get out to the lead.
#10- First Sargeant (High Voltage, ridden by M Franco)- For most of his career, this gelding would run on the turf, and in many of those cases, turf sprints. He had a productive career in those races, but the trainer was not content to keep doing that and ran him on the main track for the first time in a while in late January. He’d win that optional claimer, then two months later ran a very strong third in the New Orleans Handicap. Last month, he used a different tactic, and came from well off the pace to win the OP Handicap while earning his first triple digit SRF. In a strong field, he could be overshadowed by some of his rivals here, but he is very capable of getting it done.
#11- Locamotive (Aer Stables, ridden by E Jaramillo)- Over his three year old season, Locamotive made quite an impression, winning both the Holy Bull and the Wood Memorial to get him into the KYD. There, he would run very well again, placing third and in July, he would win the Haskell. Obviously, plenty to like right there but instead of running in races like the Travers or PA Derby, he chose a couple of open allowances, and didn’t win either. Still ran in the BC Classic, and finished in the middle of the field and after that, more allowances. I was excited to see him in the field, but it occurred to me then how he’s fallen off the radar. Winning the Gold Cup can put him right back on it, especially against this crowd.