By James Burn 8:38AM 26 JUN 2016
Report: USA, Saturday
Santa Anita: Gold Cup at Santa Anita (Grade 1) 1m2f, dirt, 3yo+
TRAINER David Hofmans, whose Alphabet Soup downed the mighty Cigar in the Breeders’ Cup Classic 20 years ago, has his sights firmly fixed on another crack at the end-of-year highlight with Melatonin (Joe Talamo), a game winner of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday.
The race, better known in its former guise as the Hollywood Gold Cup, has a celebrated roll of honour having been won by greats Seabiscuit, Citation, Affirmed and Cigar.
It was moved to Santa Anita – the host of this year’s Breeders’ Cup – in 2014 following the closure of Hollywood Park and is a win-and-you’re-in race for the $ 6 million Classic, which Hofmans cannot wait for.
“We were gunning for the Breeders’ Cup Classic anyway but to win this is quite a bonus!” said the trainer, who saddled Touch Gold to win the 1997 Belmont Stakes.
“The emotions were pretty high. I’m normally low key but today I was really nervous. It was his big test today. I thought there were some quality horses in here he had to beat in order to think about going on [to bigger things].
“The difference is that today he validated himself. Any horse can beat any horse, on any given day. But to do it again, and maybe even again, then you start thinking.”
Melatonin, described by Talamo as a “jockey’s dream”, was securing his second Grade 1 after landing March’s Santa Anita Handicap.
Hard Aces, bidding to join Game On Dude and Lava Man as recent repeat winners of the $ 500,000 contest, finished third.
Also on Saturday
Santa Anita: Triple Bend Stakes (Grade 1) 7f, dirt, 3yo+
Bob Baffert, out of luck with the fourth-placed Hoppertunity in the feature on Santa Anita’s card, did enjoy Grade 1 success with Lord Nelson (Rafael Bejarano), who stayed on resolutely for his first top-level success.
Baffert, who enjoyed a campaign for the ages last term when guiding Triple Crown hero American Pharoah to his place in US racing folklore, was, somewhat remarkably, celebrating his first Grade 1 victory of 2016.