The inaugural Hollywood Gold Cup winner was Seabiscuit. Its last winner was Improbable. And in between, one of the iconic West Coast races has won winners such as three-time champions Lava Man and Native Diver, two-time Game on Dude winner and owners of Triple Crown Citation and Affirmed.
August company, of course. But winning the Hollywood Gold Cup often bodes well for the future. The last two winners of this level 1 race ended their careers with Eclipse prizes. Vino Rosso, winner of Improbable and 2019, headed for stallion duties as Champion Older Dirt Male.
The 1¼-mile Hollywood Gold Cup makes headlines of nine Memorial Day races in Santa Anita Park. The $ 300,000 race is one of three level 1 events on the map, along with the Shoemaker Mile and Gamely Stakes. Along with the Santa Anita Handicap and the Pacific Classic August in Del Mar, the Hollywood Gold Cup is the middle leg of the classic distance trio of older West Coast horses.
From its start in 1938 to 2013, the Hollywood Gold Cup was held in Hollywood Park. When this track closed at the end of 2013, the race moved north to Santa Anita.
Grade 1 glory awaits Hollywood Gold Cup winner
Its reputation as a seasonal event migrated north with it. This year’s seven nominees are all looking for one thing: a freshman win on their CV. As decorated as many are, none of them have that elusive Level 1 victory yet.
That sort of includes Rushie (5/1), who sort of isn’t the favorite here. The 4-year-old trained by Michael McCarthy and driven by Trevor McCarthy comes in second at By My Standards on the Oaklawn Mile. This nose loss as a 9/5 favorite doubled his debut in 2021 and once again illustrates how much the three-time winner enjoys being ahead.
One of those three wins came last year on the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile. One of only two times Rushie missed the scoreboard in his nine races was in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where he finished seventh. Along the way, Rushie took part in two key preparations for the 2020 Derby. He finished third as a Swiss art collector and parachutist in the Blue Grass Stakes. Prior to that, he finished third for Honor AP and Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby.
Rushie brings a rush for value
Rushie’s value is there for the taking. If you go chalk there is the Preferred 2/1 Express Train, perhaps the most battle tested competitor in the field. He has competed in level 1 or 2 competitions in his last five starts. Express Train went 1-2-1 in those five departures, winning the San Pasqual Grade 2 at the end of January.
This earned him a disappointing finalist in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, where he took the lead deep – only to have The idol brings him back to the thread. The express train arrived at Oaklawn Park five weeks later for the Level 2 Oaklawn Handicap. It was third, at Silver State and Fearless.
The only thing Express Train brings that none of its closest rivals does is the 10-stadium experience. This came in the Santa Anita Handicap.
Royal Ship and Country Grammer meet again
The other two intriguing contenders are 5/2 favorites, Royal Ship and Country Grammer. 5-year-old Brazilian gelding, Royal Ship is embarking on the Hollywood Gold Cup in search of her second consecutive victory. This comes after winning the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on Dirt, beating Country Grammer in the process.
It was Royal Ship’s first victory over Dirt, further illustrating how underappreciated Hall of Fame coach Richard Mandella is as a conditioner. He moved Royal Ship to clay for the Californian, having finished third, fifth and sixth in three turf stakes races. These, sandwiched about a quarter in the Native Diver Stakes on land in Del Mar.
“He’s doing very well in the race. I hope he runs as well or better (than the Californian) this time around, ”Mandella told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden.
Hollywood Gold Cup / Santa Anita Park
Morning Line (Jockey / Trainer)
- Royal ship, 5/2 (Mike Smith / Richard Mandella)
- Country Grammer, 5/2 (Flavien Prat / Bob Baffert)
- Brown Storm, 20/1 (Umberto Rispoli / Mike McCarthy)
- Heywoods Beach, 5/1 (Tyler Baze / John Sadler)
- Rushie, 5/1 (Trevor McCarthy / Mike McCarthy)
- Two thirty-five, 30/1 (Abel Cedillo / Doug O’Neill)
- Express train, 2/1 (Juan Hernandez / John Shirreffs)
Country Grammer cannot make the same statement. He came out of a seven-month layoff, set the tone in the Californian, and then couldn’t hold back the Royal Ship. The layoff came after his fifth in the Travers Stakes last summer, which sent the Peter Pan Stakes winner earlier this summer to the sidelines.
The California spot scored Country Grammer’s best 112 Equibase Speed Figure of career, a rating of 14 points better than his previous career mark.
The choice: Rushie. He may stretch for the first time, but he has the pedigree, a scorching coach in Preakness Stakes winner McCarthy and the form to make it his first Grade 1 win. And good value comes along the way.