Catch a Flight Headlines 11-horse Gold Cup field

June 24, 2015 04:03pm

Richard Mandella will attempt to complete another strong Southern California meeting when Catch a Flight tries to make it three graded stakes victories in a row in the Grade I $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.  The five-year-old Argentina-bred has won three of his five stateside starts since coming up from South America and is listed as the 5-2 morning line choice.  Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will be aboard the son of Giant’s Causeway in Race 9 on the 10-race Saturday afternoon card. 

The Grade I Gold Cup will headline a massive afternoon at the Arcadia, California, venue that also includes the parade of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, as well as three other stakes events.  The draw that took place on Wednesday brought a solid group of 11 including Catch a Flight, as well as runner up in the Californian, Moreno, and Bob Baffert trained Hoppertunity.  The Mandella trainee pulled the 9-post with the co-second choice Moreno drawing just to his inside.  Hoppertunity making his second start in fourteen days drew the 6-post.  Peter Miller trained Finnegans Wake and Motown Men for trainer Ted West were both listed at 6-1 on John White’s morning line.

Catch a Flight, Moreno, and Hard Aces all exit the May 30th Grade II Californian at nine furlongs and will attempt to run another big one at the ten-furlong distance.  The Mandella conditioned Catch a Flight has shown a tremendous desire to win during his impressive 2015 campaign.  Both regular rider Stevens and fill in jockey Flavien Prat have guided the son of Giant’s Causeway to trouble free voyages since arriving in California. He will need another one on Saturday if he is to hit the wire first once again.

While Catch a Flight has had dream trips in his last few and shown the desire to win, Moreno has yet to find the winner's circle at Santa Anita Park despite five runner-up efforts and nearly $275,000 in earnings at “The Great Race Place.” Trainer Eric Guillot was pleased to draw outside the likely speed in Big Cazanova, but would have preferred to see Catch A Flight drawn to his inside as well. When asked if he had a plan for different tactics on Saturday Guillot said, “I am not going to reinvent the wheel.” His plan once again will be to stalk Big Cazanova and hopefully hold off the others in the stretch.  The son of Ghostzapper has run at the mile and a quarter distance seven times and has three second place efforts to show for it.

Bob Baffert conditioned Hoppertunity will make his first Grade I start at Santa Anita Park since last April’s Santa Anita Derby.  The four-year-old son of Any Given Saturday has had success over the surface with two wins, two seconds, and a third in six career starts, but will make his first try at the mile and a quarter distance.  Martin Garcia will return to ride the $300,000 Keeneland September 2012 purchase.  Hoppertunity ran a solid third place from off the pace in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on what has been deemed by many experts to be a speed-biased racetrack.  Expect a big effort in his return to Southern California on Saturday.

Finnegans Wake for Donegal Racing and Gary Hartunian have won four of their last six starts, including victories in the Grade I Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby day and the San Marcos and San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita Park.  The son of Powercourt will likely come from way out of it in his first try over the main track since last November.  Peter Miller will “leg up” Mike Smith with regular rider Victor Espinoza opting to ride Hard Aces.  Finnegan’s Wake has not won a race on the dirt, but the connections have always believed he could perform well on the main track. If they go quick early, he could be “rolling late.”

Motown Men for trainer Ted West will be looking for the biggest win of his career when he makes his 30th start on Saturday. The six-year-old son of Decarchy has exceeded expectations for his new connections since being claimed on March 8th. In fact, it was thought they might be shooting “too high” in his first race after being “tagged” on April 10th, but were happily proven incorrect when he won an open company optional claimer by a dominating seven and a half lengths.

The once considered “need the lead” gelding has shown the ability to rate in his last two starts. According to West, this should allow regular rider Tyler Baze some versatility on Saturday with an inside draw and a longer run into the first turn.  When asked about tactics in the Gold Cup, West said, “Tyler knows him well from riding him in the morning and in his last three starts.  I will leave it up to him.” Motown Men may be sharp, but will have to prove he can perform at the classic mile and a quarter distance and at the Grade I level. West said there was no way of telling if the distance would be an issue without trying. His latest victory in the May 23rd Tiznow Stakes came at a mile, so the extra two furlongs certainly could be a challenge. The California-bred, like many in this group, has had plenty of success at Santa Anita Park including three wins, two seconds and three third place efforts in nine career starts. 

Hard Aces, Majestic City, and Big Cazanova were all installed at 12-1 on the morning line after the Wednesday draw.  Hard Aces added the blinkers for the first time in two years in the Californian and ran on for a solid third. He ran fourth in the “Big Cap” in March, his lone try at the ten-furlong distance, and will attempt to follow up his solid effort last month with another big one for trainer John Sadler.  Majestic City took down a compact five-horse field in the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap on May 25th, and looks to make it two in a row for new conditioner Richard Baltas.  Big Cazanova, like Catch a Flight, is bred in Argentina, and is the second of the two Peter Miller entrants.  The six-year-old ridgling will have to improve off his last two starts in Arcadia if he wants to compete on Saturday.  Batti Man, Poshsky, and Lideris wind out the 11-horse field and will need to run the best races of their lives to hit the board.

The headline event on Saturday’s card will be televised on NBC Sports and has a scheduled post time of 5PM Pacific Time. 


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Scott has been a fan of handicapping and following thoroughbred racing since Garden State Park was rebuilt in Cherry Hill, NJ in 1985.  His first memories of the racetrack include the 1985 Jersey Derby won by Spend a Buck and the 1990 Met Mile clash between Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Housebuster, but it was not until his mid to late twenties that Scott became confident he had a knack for picking winners. He points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills, and his attention to detail to the next level.  It was at this time where he had his first real big score.   He had four of only five winning combinations in the now extinct “Place Pick All” on a $8 ticket netting himself $40,000. 

A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, showcasing his and other experts' selections, as well as analysis and commentary on North American racing. From there, he began writing a weekly column for called "Race of the Week" and soon thereafter started writing for Horse Racing Nation. Currently, he is Horse Racing Nation's Southern California Racing Correspondent and can be found most days at Santa Anita Park or Del Mar Race Course.

Scott loves playing in horse racing tournaments and constructing pick four and pick five tickets.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, Fly So Free and Charismatic. He has lived in multiple states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado before returning to Southern California in the middle of 2015 to start "Shapper Da California Capper." 


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