Race of the Week: Gold Cup at Santa Anita, by Joe Wulffe

Race of the Week: Gold Cup at Santa Anita

May 25, 2018

by Joe Wulffe


Saturday May 26th: Race 5 at Santa Anita. The $500,000 Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes run at 1 ¼ miles on the dirt for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 5:30 EDT)


Selections: 5-2-4

(5) Dr. Dorr: This gelded five year old son of Lookin at Lucky, trained by Bob Baffert, will be sent out on Saturday to face what will arguably be the toughest test of his career. For Dr. Dorr, the Gold Cup at Santa Anita not only presents a challenge through an increase in class but also will test his durability at ten furlongs. Initially, trained by Baffert as a sprinter, Dr. Dorr has only recently begun racing at route distances. In his last effort on April 28th at Santa Anita in the Californian Stakes (G2), Dr. Dorr stretched out to nine furlongs for the first time in his career and was able to easily handle the distance albeit against inferior competition. In that race, he was ridden well by veteran jockey Joe Talamo, sitting off and stalking the early leader, before effortlessly moving past his rival going into the final turn; he ended up drawing clear of the field down the stretch and won the race by seven lengths.

Dr. Dorr’s effort in the Californian Stakes (G2) earned him a career best 107 Bris Speed Rating along with a 107 Brisnet Late Pace figure which are among the highest in the field, bested only by his main rivals Accelerate and City of Light. Dr. Dorr’s preferred running style is to sit back, just off the leaders, and rate, which should work to his advantage on Saturday.  

Any concerns about his ability to get the classic ten furlong distance of the Gold Cup may be allayed by reviewing his pedigree. Dr. Dorr’s pedigree numbers are outstanding as both his sire, Lookin at Lucky, and his damsire, Unusual Heat, were accomplished classic distance horses; furthermore, his grandsire, Smart Strike, is regarded as one of the chefs de race. Thus with the abundance of stamina found throughout his pedigree, Dr. Dorr should have no issue stretching out in distance. It should also be noted that Bob Baffert chose to keep Dr. Dorr in the field for this race, while sending his more accomplished router, Mubtaahij, to race in the eight and a half furlong Lone Star Park Handicap (G3) on Sunday.

Additionally, Dr. Dorr has won five of his seven lifetime starts at Santa Anita, including four of his last five races. As mentioned previously, Dr. Dorr is trained by Bob Baffert, and quite simply, he has been outstanding as a trainer this year. He currently boasts a 27% win rate with runners racing on dirt (over 1123 starts this year), a 34% win rate with horses that won their last race, and is winning at a 31% clip during the current meet at Santa Anita. Moreover, Dr. Dorr will be reunited with jockey Joe Talamo once again for this race. Talamo is a 27% winning jockey while racing at route distances and has won 25% of his starts when hooking up with Baffert over the last 60 days. If Dr. Dorr can progress and if Talamo can have him in an ideal striking position in the final turn, he should  be considered a major contender to not only hit the board but also possibly win on Saturday.

(2) Accelerate: The barn of trainer John Sadler will enter the multi-graded stakes winner, Accelerate, into a field of seven to contest the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday. This five year old son of Lookin at Lucky holds a record of 10-2-3-4 at Santa Anita, has finished in the money in both attempts at the Gold Cup’s distance of ten furlongs, and has only finished off the board twice in 18 career starts, all the while earning $1.412 million.

Accelerate’s preferred running style is to sit back initially and stalk the early leaders before trying to challenge for and take the lead late, either in the final turn or coming into the stretch. The TimeForm Pace Projector indicates that the pace of Saturday’s race will likely be fast, with Accelerate’s main rival City of Light, leading the field early on while Accelerate will be sitting further back. Such a pace scenario should suit him just fine. In his last race on April 14th at Oaklawn Park, in the nine furlong Oaklawn Handicap (G2), Accelerate sat chilly for most of the race, just behind the two early leaders, before trying to make a move going into the final turn; however, when he tried to make his run, City of Light went with him and ended up gaining the lead coming out of the turn. While Accelerate tried to reengage with his rival, ultimately he just could not catch City of Light in time and lost the race by a neck at the wire. His effort in that last race did earn him a career high 113 Brisnet Late Pace figure, which is among the best in the field.

As stated previously, John Sadler trains Accelerate. Sadler has done fairly well for himself this year as he is winning 16% of the graded stakes races he has entrants in and boasts a 19% win rate with runners racing on dirt. Additionally, Accelerate will once again have veteran jockey, Victor Espinoza, in the irons on Saturday. While Espinoza has been doing alright during the current Santa Anita meet, winning 11% of his 115 starts thus far, he has been ice cold when racing at route distances (7% win rate). However, Espinoza has been aboard Accelerate on all three of his starts this year: winning once at nine furlongs, once at ten furlongs and finishing a close second again at nine furlongs the last time out. 

Furthermore, all three of Accelerate’s workouts this month at Santa Anita have been fairly sharp and indicate that he is in good form to run well on Saturday. In what appears to be a rematch of the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), if Accelerate can work a good trip under Espinoza and successfully challenge City of Light for the lead coming out of the final turn, then there is definitely a good chance that he could win the Gold Cup.

(4) City of Light: The barn of trainer Michael McCarthy will send out this four year old Quality Road colt to compete on Saturday. Thus far in his short career, City of Light has earned nearly $1 million, never finished worse than second in seven lifetime starts, and has finished in the money in all three starts at Santa Anita.

While City of Light’s preferred running style at route distances remains somewhat of mystery as he has only raced beyond seven furlongs just once, he has shown an ability to sit right off the pace and stalk the early speed before challenging for the lead either in the final turn or down the stretch. However, the TimeForm Pace Projector for Saturday has indicated that it is likely that City of Light will go straight to the lead, although there is other early speed (in the form of Little Scotty drawing from the one hole) signed on. Therefore it is unlikely that either horse will be able to draw away for an uncontested lead, at least early on; this could possibly contribute to City of Light’s undoing.

In his last race on April 14th at Oaklawn Park, in the nine furlong Oaklawn Handicap (G2), City of Light broke well under the guidance of jockey Drayden Van Dyke and initially sat back of the leaders throughout most of the race. Yet as the field moved into the final turn, Van Dyke decided to go with rival Accelerate and contest for the lead. City of Light began to put away Accelerate coming out of the turn, fended off several bids by his rival to reengage and narrowly won the race by a neck at the wire. For his efforts, City of Light earned a career best Bris Speed Rating of 108 along with a career best Brisnet Late Pace figure of 114 (these are the highest figures in the entire field). Furthermore, City of Light was able to accomplish all of this all the while consistently racing three to four wide throughout the entire race up until the stretch.

It should be noted that City of Light’s trainer, Michael McCarthy, has some fairly impressive stats thus far this year. He boasts a 19% win rate with runners in graded stakes and is winning at a 24% clip with runners making their third start off of a layoff. Moreover, City of Light will once again have Drayden Van Dyke aboard, with whom he has won all three graded stakes starts. Van Dyke is a 25% winning jockey when racing at route distances and has won 20% of the 249 races he’s ridden in thus far in the Santa Anita meet. While there is a distinct possibility that City of Light could go gate to wire with this field, the fact that there will be other early speed initially contesting the pace somewhat negates that idea.

Additionally, there is the concern that the stretch out in distance might be too much of a test for City of Light as the stamina numbers in his pedigree are somewhat lacking. Finally, should City of Light get to the lead in the latter stages of the race, he will likely have to repel multiple challenges from not only Accelerate but also Dr. Dorr as those two may be his main rivals at that point. However, should City of Light continue to progress and show an affinity for ten furlongs, then he will certainly be the one to beat in this race and may end up on top of the handicap division when all is said and done.

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