A field of nine led by a duo sent out by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert head to the gate on Saturday in the $500,000 Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita.
The race is a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this fall at Del Mar.
Baffert sends out American Freedom (4-1), who was fourth in the Alysheba (G2) in the slop in his first start off a layoff, and Cupid (6-1) who makes his first start since an eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) last September.
Midnight Storm is the 5-2 morning line favorite for trainer Phil D’Amato, who was third in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in his last outing. He was a game second to Shaman Ghost two back in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), the winner coming back to win the Pimlico Special (G3) in his next outing.
The Gold Cup is one of four graded stakes on an outstanding card at Santa Anita.
The stakes action starts in the third race, the $150,000 Daytona (G3) at 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course. The race drew a field of six with Stormy Liberal the 6-5 morning line favorite.
The $300,000 Gamely (G1) features a matchup between Lady Eli (4-5) and Avenge (5-2) in the 1 1/8 mile turf event.
Lady Eli has lost three of her last four starts but the two-time Eclipse Award winner was beaten a head last out in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and a tough nose in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) by Beholder.
Avenge is making her first start since a third in the Filly & Mare Turf where she was beaten just a length.
The $200,000 Monrovia (G2) drew nine that will go 6 ½ on the downhill turf. Illuminant (9-5) is the morning line favorite. She pressed the pace in the Jenny Wiley and faded to finish seventh. She won last year’s Gamely over the turf course here.
Let’s head out to Santa Anita for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Santa Anita Race 8 The Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) Post time 4:30 PT
1 American Freedom 4-1
5 Midnight Storm 5-2
2 Follow Me Crev 4-1
6 Cupid 6-1
American Freedom makes his second start off the bench here for the Baffert barn. The colt returned off an 8 ½ month break in the Alysheba (G2) where he tracked the early pace from the outside and weakened in the stretch in a fourth-place finish over a sloppy track as the beaten favorite. This guy had a productive three-year-old campaign, winning the Iowa Derby (G3) and then running second in the Haskell Invitational (G1) to Exaggerator and the Travers (G1) behind Arrogate. Blinkers go on for a barn that is 27% winners with runners making their second start off a +180 day layoff. His best speed fig came at 1 ¼ miles although he was 13 ½ lengths behind Arrogate. He figures to move forward second off the bench here and this is not a real tough Grade 1 race.
Midnight Storm set a sharp early pace and weakened in the stretch to finish third last out in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). He has been best on turf but reeled off three straight triple digit Beyers on dirt in his three previous starts including a 106 winning the Native Diver (G3). The six-year-old is usually on the lead but might end up getting mixed up in a speed duel here as there is other speed signed up. He has run well over the main track, landing in the exacta in five of six trips. He fits with his best but his price may end up on the light side.
Follow Me Crev stalked the early pace and made a good late run while no match for Collected in a runner up finish in the Californian (G2) last out at nine furlongs. He ran third two back in the Santa Anita Derby behind Shaman Ghost, who came back to win the Pimlico Special (G3) in his next start while runner up Midnight Storm was third in the Oaklawn ‘Cap. He comes in here in the best form of his career and four of his six wins have come over the main track here. He should get a good trip sitting midpack and could be in a good spot if the speed backs up.
WIN: #1 to win at 3-1 or better.
EXACTA: 1,5 / 1,2,5,6
TRIFECTA: 1,5 / 1,2,5,6 / 1,2,5,6,9
Michael’s Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire Belmont Stakes Day card.
The third jewel of the Triple Crown features an outstanding day of horse betting that also includes the Grade 1, $1 million Manhattan, the Grade 1, $700,000 Longines Just a Game, the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens, the Grade 1, $1.2 million Metropolitan Handicap, the Grade 1, $750,000 Ogden Phipps, the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn, the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational, the Grade 3, $300,000 Jaipur Invitational, and the $150,000 Easy Goer. Report available on Friday, June 9.