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Head to Head: Dueling takes on Hollywood Gold Cup



Santa Anita’s Memorial Day card
on Monday features the historic Grade 2 Hollywood
Gold Cup
. This year’s edition attracted a field of eight, led
by Californian (G3) winner Mr. Fisk.

Past race winners read like a who’s who of horse racing. The great Seabiscuit won the inaugural running in 1938. The list of notable winners includes Citation, Swaps,
Round Table, Gallant Man, Native Diver, Ack Ack, Exceller, Affirmed, Ferdinand, Best Pal,
Cigar, Skip Away, Real Quiet and Lava Man.

Three of the last five Hollywood
Gold Cup winners earned Eclipse Awards as champion older male. Despite this, the
race was downgraded to a Grade 2 this year.

Trainer Bob Baffert holds the
record for the most wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup, with nine victories under
his belt. His most recent triumph was with Defunded last year. Baffert will aim
for an unprecedented 10th victory as he saddles Reincarnate and Mr. Fisk in
this year’s race.

Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power examine the field and determine who will
be the next to stamp their name as a winner of this prestigious race.



1. Reincarnate (4-1)

The first of two Bob Baffert trainees, Reincarnate hasn’t
had his picture taken since winning the Los Alamitos Derby last July. The
highlight of this year was a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap
(G1), bested 2 1/2 lengths by runner-up Subsanador and winner Newgate. Reincarnate
galloped out in front of Mr Fisk in their five furlong pre-race breeze Monday. But the breeze video and clocking times show a discrepancy. The clocker assigned a
time of 1:00.2 for Reincarnate, yet he finished evenly with Mr Fisk, who was
granted a 1:00.0 work. Reincarnate was outworked in his two bullet breezes
on April 12 and May 6. The May 6 time record of 5 furlongs in 59.0 was
actually 59.2 because stablemate Canada Gate finished a half-length in front and Reincarnate never passed. Still, he drew the rail and could be part of
the pace since the only time he wins is as a pacesetter. Exotics.


Trained by Bob Baffert,
Reincarnate enters off a fourth-place effort in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Although he has a career record of just 13: 3-3-3, he’s 3: 1-1-1 at Santa Anita.
But he’s never won at the Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles, with his best
result being a third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) two starts back. J.J.
Hernandez has the return call for Baffert. Exotics.



2. Ashcroft (15-1)

Ashcroft finally got the job done in his eighth career
start when he stretched to a mile to beat four maidens. The runner-up
returned to win, and the third-place finisher was third next out. The Bob
Hess Jr. trainee showed a lot of grit next out, dueling the entire way to win
by a neck against a field of $50,000 optional-claiming allowance rivals. By Munnings, out of a stakes-winning daughter of Empire Maker, none
of his half-siblings has won beyond 1 1/16 miles, and according to Race Lens,
Munnings offspring are 0-for-14 at 1 1/4 miles. This is an ambitious placing
for Ashcroft, and I must pass.

Trained by Bob Hess Jr.,
Ashcroft took eight attempts to break his maiden. He started his career with
Wesley Ward and raced mostly on turf to begin his career. He finally turned
the corner when switching to the dirt at Santa Anita in February,
going 3: 2-1-0 since. His most recent races produced his career-best
Equibase speed figures, a 101 in a maiden special weight and a 107 in an
optional claimer. Although he’s certainly in career form, Hess has only one
win in five graded-stakes starts over the last year. Kent Desormeaux has the
call. Pass.



3. Judge Miller (5-2)

Judge Miller faced three rivals in the Californian (G3).
He was lightly pressured on the lead, but the pace was average. The Mark
Glatt trainee argued with Mr Fisk down the lane, but the effort was tiring,
and Judge Miller shortened stride. He held off a late-charging Mixto for
second. Judge Miller’s gait wastes a lot of energy. He has very high,
climbing knee action and paddles with his left fore, and in my opinion, doesn’t
look comfortable running on dirt. Judge Miller’s Brisnet rating was 95, slightly lower than his career-best 97 in February, so he has room for improvement
and should be fit. Curlin’s son is out of multiple Grade 1 heroine Cavorting,
making him a full brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Clairiere. The mare was
second in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1). Judge Miller logged two pre-race five- and six-furlong stamina breezes. Exotics.  

Trained by Mark Glatt, lightly raced Judge Miller has
never been out of the exacta in four career starts. He gave a very good
accounting of himself in his graded debut last out in the Californian (G3),
finishing second to Mr. Fisk after doing the early leg work. He earned a career-best
108 Equibase speed figure for the effort. Judge Miller gets an equipment
change with first-time blinkers; Glatt is 0 percent over the last year, with runners
sporting first-time blinkers and only 22 percent in the money with that angle.
But Frankie Dettori, who was aboard when Judge Miller thrashed an
optional claiming field by 11 lengths, takes over again from Mike Smith. Since
he performed well against this group last out, I see no reason to doubt his
ability here. Contender.

4. Oviatt Class (30-1)

Oviatt Class ambitiously jumps into Grade 1 company and
adds a couple of furlongs despite having only a trio of victories to his name
in 13 career starts; the last was a $40,000 optional-claiming allowance at Turf Paradise. He showed promise earlier in his
career, with a pair of thirds in the American Pharoah (G1) and Sham Stakes
(G3), but has struggled against optional claimers since. His races are spaced
apart, which, to me, indicates issues. Pass.

Trained by Vladimir Cerin, Oviatt Class is trying graded
company for the first time since running third in the Sham (G3) in 2022.
He enters off a half-length victory in an optional claimer in which he received
a career-best 106 Equibase speed figure. However, that race was at Turf
Paradise. Umberto Rispoli has the call, and Cerin is 0-for-2 in graded stakes
races in the last year, though he has a 50 percent in-the-money rate. Pass.

5. Mr Fisk (2-1)

The only mar on Mr Fisk’s otherwise perfect four-race record
was a wide trip off a long layoff in the San Pasqual (G2). The Baffert
trainee returned with a strong performance in the Californian (G3) against
Gold Cup rivals Judge Miller and Mixto. Arrogate’s son recorded a 98 Brisnet
rating and a late-pace figure of 115, the highest in this field. Mr Fisk recorded
two sharp pre-race breezes. On May 13, he was visually much the best against maiden
winner Fifth Street, both timed in 59.40 for five furlongs. Mr Fisk worked a
little harder in company with the larger, longer-striding Reincarnate on May
20, getting five furlongs in 1:00.00. Contender.

Also trained by Bob Baffert, Mr Fisk has become a staple
on the California circuit. He’s won three of his last four races, including
taking the 2023 Shared Belief by eight lengths, the 2023 Native Diver
(G3) by 1 1/4 lengths, and most recently, the Californian (G3) by 2 1/4 lengths.
He earned a career-best 112 Equibase speed figure for that victory. Kazushi
Kimura, who was aboard for that race, has the return call. Contender.

6. Subsanador (5-2)

Subsanador is an intriguing entry from the Richard Mandella barn. Mandella is noted for his work with South American horses, notably
Hollywood Gold Cup heroes Siphon (1996) and Gentleman (1997), as
well as multiple Grade 1 turf horse Sandpit. Subsanador found a little
trouble in the five-horse field of the San Antonio (G2), having to steady while
trying to move eagerly between horses. Subsanador lost focus slightly down
the stretch while moving inward, then got his head back into the game and surged
forward. It was a reasonable effort against the accomplished Newgrange, Brickyard
Ride, Stiletto Boy and Mixto.  Subsanador
switched running styles in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) against the same
foes. Subsanador looked more comfortable setting the pace and was just nipped
at the wire by Newgate. Contender.

Trained by Richard Mandella, Subsanador is a Group 1
winner in his native Argentina. He has an overall record of 14: 7-2-1 and
performed respectably since moving to the U.S. In his stateside debut, he was fourth, beaten by just 3 ¼ lengths, in the San Antonio (G2). Last out he missed
winning the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) by just a head, earning career-second
best 111 Equibase speed figure. His career-best is a 114. He was with John
Sadler for those two races and will be making his first start for Mandella. Flavien
Prat has the call. Contender.

7. Mixto

Mixto likes to make things exciting. He generally closes
with a rush but always falls short and settles for third place. He’s visited
the winner’s circle once in 11 starts when he got brave on the lead. It would
be interesting to see if that performance could be repeated should he be
given his head. As Ashley notes, he’ll shore up the lower exotics.  

Trained by Doug O’Neill, Mixto has just one win in 11   career starts and enters on a four-race losing streak. In fairness, the
4-year-old colt does have a penchant for hitting the board at a price and is
6: 0-1-4 at Santa Anita. Regular rider Antonio Fresu has the return call. I’m
not looking for a win here, but he’s a very useful lower exotics play.


8. Arrowthegreat (30-1)

A late bloomer like many from the Unbridled’s Son line, Arrowthegreat
recorded a pair of wins and a second place in three starts from last August
to October, and his sweet spot was a mile. The free-running gelding showed
early speed but tired to fourth in the 1 1/8 mile Native Diver (G3), then missed
the victory by a head in another optional claimer. Off since December, Arrowthegreat
surfaces in the barn of Juan Landeros, trying 1 1/4 miles against accomplished
graded types. So who wants a rabbit to make things interesting on the front
end and perhaps set it up for an off-the-pace type? Arrogate’s son is out of
the Arch mare Burning Arch. His half-siblings are capable over most surfaces,
especially turf, and he descends from the famed Phipps family mare Matlacha
Pass. Her offspring include G1 winners Point of Entry and Pine Island. Despite
the breeding, this is an odd placing for Arrowthegreat Pass.

Trained by Juan Landeros, Arrowthegreat is one of the
questionable entrants here. With two wins from seven starts, this gelding has
spent most of his career in lower-level races. He was fourth in the Native Diver
(G3) last year but faded badly after setting the pace. This will be the
gelding’s first start off a nearly five-month layoff. Regular rider Victor
Espinoza retains the mount despite Arrowthegreat making his first start for
Landeros after previously being in Dan Blacker’s barn. Pass.

Final thoughts

Ashley:  This is a group that is familiar
with each other and has taken turns beating one another. Mr Fisk gets the
morning-line nod off his win in the Californian.

problem, however, is that there is almost no speed in this field. I’m putting
my money on Subsanador being sharper in his second start off the layoff. He very nearly
wired the field last out in the Santa Anita Handicap, and he could very
well pull it off here. It helps that the rival who beat him, Newgrange, is not
in this field.

As much
as I love Bob Baffert, I feel like his duo is beatable here, and that’s how I’m
going to play it.

Only one
of the last 12 Hollywood Gold Cup heroes finished worse than fourth in their
prep, and eight gained ground in the race.

As usual, speed rules in California, and only one
closer won in 12 editions of this stakes. Only one favorite finished worse than
fourth, and five won. Bob Baffert owns half of the last dozen Hollywood Gold
Cup trophies.

I see the race differently than Ashley. Subsanador,
Judge Miller, Arrowthegreat and Ashcroft all
have early speed. Reincarnate has tactical speed and may show speed from the
rail. The only time he wins is as a pacesetter.

Mixto also likes to be close, Mr Fisk
has tactical speed, and Oviatt Class is a closer.

Mr Fisk
fits the profile of previous Hollywood Gold Cup winners, and the early speed
can set the race up for him. Subsanador
is game, but he’s lost focus in the stretch of both starts. He can’t afford to
do it here and will be pressured on the front end.

I’m going out on a limb and tossing Judge Miller. He
has an awkward gait, which can affect a horse at longer distances, especially
when facing pressure on the lead. Perhaps he can change his running style, giving
him a better shot.





5. Mr Fisk (2-1)

6. Subsanador (5-2)

6. Subsanador (5-2)

3. Judge Miller (5-2)

7. Mixto (12-1)

5. Mr Fisk (2-1)

1. Reincarnate (4-1)

7. Mixto (12-1)


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