Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be seeking his sixth win in the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) when he sends out Hoppertunity, the 3-1 morning line favorite in a field of eight.
Baffert won the race in the last three years it was contested at the now shuttered Hollywood Park, winning with First Dude in 2011 and with Game On Dude in 2012 and 2013.
The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), which will be held at Santa Anita this year.
Hoppertunity will be making his first start since running third to California Chrome in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 26. He won the San Antonio (G2) on Feb 6 in his previous outing, earning a career top Beyer Speed Figure in that win and snapping a nine race losing streak.
The five-year-old was edged by a nose in last year’s running of the Gold Cup by Hard Aces, who is back to defend his title and is 6-1 on the morning line. Hoppeutunity is currently at early betting odds of +2500 for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Mybookie.ag.
He faces seven foes including Melatonin (7-2) who is perfect in three starts over the main track at Santa Anita including taking the Big ‘Cap at 16-1 on March 12.
The intriguing runner in the field who ended up my top pick is Bal a Bali (9-2), who will be making his first career start on dirt for trainer Richard Mandella. He has won 13 of 21 career starts on turf.
Post time for the Gold Cup is 5:30 PT and will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network.
In 2016, the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing,” will consist of nine telecasts on NBC and NBCSN and feature 16 “Win and You’re In” races plus other major stakes races on the road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The series will also be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Winners of these Challenge races, which combined offer more than $10 million in purses, automatically qualify for a spot in the Breeders’ Cup.
The co-feature on Saturday’s card at Santa Anita is the $300,000 Triple Bend (G1) at seven furlongs on the main track. Kobe’s Back, who was third in the Churchill Downs (G2) on Derby Day is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
Let’s head out to Santa Anita for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Santa Anita Race 9 The Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) Post time 5:30 PT
1 Bal a Bali 9-2
7 Melatonin 7-2
6 Hoppertunity 3-1
3 Hard Aces 6-1
Bal a Bali makes his first career start on dirt and this is not exactly an easy spot to do so. The six-year-old has won 13 of his 21 career starts, all on turf. He is a Group 1 winner on turf in Brazil but has won just 2 of 9 in the U.S. He was beaten just a neck two back in a third place finish in the San Francisco (G3) and regressed slightly in a fourth place finish in the Charlie Whittingham (G2) last out.
The Richard Mandella barn is 26% winners moving runners form turf to dirt and he certainly has worked quickly over the surface. Prat rode Hoppertunity last out in the Dubai World Cup (G1) but was already committed to ride our top pick here. Looks as if we should catch a fair price.
Melatonin set the early fractions and battled on gamely in a runner up finish to Effinex last out in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). The winner, who was second in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) came back to run a dud in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on June 18, weakening to finish sixth. The David Hofmans trainee earned a career top speed fig two back winning the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), pulling of the upset at 16-1.
It was 10 points higher than his previous Beyer which he earned three back beating Alw-2 foes. He is perfect in three starts over the main track, but nobody has come out of the Oaklawn Handicap to run that well and this guy may end up a light price. There is some pace in here to keep him honest as well.
Hoppertunity makes his first start since running third in the Dubai World Cup, beaten four lengths by California Chrome. He had snapped a nine race losing streak two back winning the San Antonio (G2) over the main track here.
He has landed in the exacta in seven of his 10 trips here and comes back here off a three month break for the Baffert barn that is 25% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180-day layoff. He should get a good pace set up here but this race looks more like a prep for Del Mar.
WIN: Bal a Bali to win at 4-1 or better.
EXACTA: 1,7 / 1,3,6,7
TRIFECTA: 1,7 / 1,3,6,7 / 1,2,3,6,7
Road to the Breeders’ Cup Package
Get Michael’s Best Plays Report each Saturday which will include all of the U.S. based Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races from now to Oct. 12 and Michael Dempsey’s 2-Day Breeders’ Cup Report.
Michael’s two day Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the two-day championship event from Santa Anita on Nov. 4-5.