Special Memorial Day racing at Santa Anita will include three Grade I stakes races that highlight a 10-race card that begins at 1 p.m.
The centerpiece of the program is the $400,000 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, which has been won by some of the most iconic horses in the sport and will be run for the 85th time.
Trainer Bob Baffert holds the two aces in the 1¼-mile race, which has been run at Santa Anita since Hollywood Park closed in 2013. The Hall of Famer will send out Country Grammer, who won the race in 2021, and Defunded, who uncharacteristically came from far back to win the Californian at Santa Anita on April 22 after a slow start.
Baffert can break a tie with the legendary Charlie Whittingham for most victories in the Gold Cup (eight) with a win. Baffert’s first came in 1999 with Real Quiet and his most recent victory was two years ago with Country Grammer.
The immortal Seabiscuit won the first running of the Gold Cup in 1938. Since then, such standouts as Citation, Swaps, Round Table, Native Diver, Ack Ack, Quack, Affirmed, Cigar, Ferdinand and Lava Man have found their way to the winner’s circle. Native Diver and Lava Man each won the historic race for three consecutive years.
Country Grammer, a 6-year-old son of Tonalist who has won five of 16 races for earnings of $14.8 million (fifth all-time), drew the No. 1 post position in the six-horse field. He finished second behind Panthalassa in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 25 and then finished a disappointing seventh in the $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 25. He’ll be ridden by Flavien Prat, who was aboard when he won the Gold Cup in 2021.
Defunded, who will have the services of Juan Hernandez, the Hollywood Meet’s leading rider, finished third in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 4 after beginning his 5-year-old campaign with a second-place finish behind Art Collector in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28. Overall, the gelded son of Dialed In has won six of 16 starts for $1.3 million in earnings. He’s 4 for 8 at Santa Anita.
The Gold Cup will be run as the eighth race at approximately 4:30 p.m. It will be preceded by the $400,000 Gamely Stakes (fifth race) at 1-1/8 miles on the turf and the $500,000 Shoemaker Mile (seventh race) on the grass. The Shoemaker Mile, which drew a field of 11, is the first Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race in North America this year.
Trainer Philip D’Amato, the local wizard of turf races, has entered three in the Shoemaker Mile – Gold Phoenix, Hong Kong Harry and Balnikhov. All three are multiple graded stakes winners.
The Gamely drew a field of seven, highlighted by multiple graded-stakes winners Queen Goddess, Quattroelle and Macadamia.
Santa Anita will host seven stakes races on Saturday and Sunday, highlighted by the $200,000 Grade II Triple Bend and the $100,000 Daytona on Saturday. On Sunday, California-breds will be spotlighted with five stakes, highlighted by the Snow Chief and Melair.
The track will hold three Grade I stakes on Monday. The lineup:
Hollywood Gold Cup: The 85th edition of the historic race includes a pair of Bob Baffert horses, Country Grammer and Defunded.
Shoemaker Mile: North America’s first Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race of 2023 drew a large field of 11.
Gamely: A field of seven will line up for the filly and mare turf race that includes three multiple graded-stakes winners.
First post: 1 p.m.
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