The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Cheat Sheet: Hello Race Fans

By Dana Byerly, courtesy of Hello Race Fans, @helloracefans

The Gold Cup at Santa Anita, first run in 1938, has been won by many of the game's luminaries. Without top older horses Shared Belief and California Chrome the 11 entrants have a chance to distinguish themselves and earn a berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Generally favorites have fared well over the last 15 years, winning five times and running in the money (first, second or third) 11 times. Despite well-performing favorites, the average payout for a $2 winning ticket in same time frame is a respectable $14.23. In eight of the last 15 years the winner paid double digits, including last year's winner, Majestic Harbor, who paid a hefty $30.80.

Not sure who's running? Here's a thumbnail sketch of the 2015 Gold Cup at Santa Anita field by post position and including the morning line odds.

1. Batti Man (ARG) (30-1) - This 7-year-old Argentine-bred allowance winner appears to be having his best year since his 2011 arrival in the states. He's 1-2-0 in four starts, albeit in the optional claiming ranks. Given his front-running style and position on the rail he's likely to get the jump on the other speeds who break mid-gate. He would need several things to go his way to step up here but he'll certainly have a say in how the race is run.

2. Hard Aces (12-1) - He was the "best of the rest" last out in the Grade 2 Californian, making mild gains but only getting within four lengths of Catch a Flight (Arg) and Moreno. You have to go back a few starts to January to find his last win, which was an upset in the ungraded Louisiana Handicap. While he doesn't seem too likely to pull an upset here, trainer John Sadler is currently enjoying a hot streak.

3. Poshsky (30-1) - This California-bred allowance winner ran a non-threatening 6th to Motown Men last out in the Tiznow Stakes. He's made most of his career starts on the turf but has one win and one second in four starts on dirt, albeit against much easier company.

4. Motown Men (6-1) - Former claimer and winner of California-bred Tiznow Stakes will be making his Grade 1 debut. He ran an OK 3rd behind Catch a Flight (Arg) in the Grade 3 Precisionist but displayed impressive tractability and the will to win in the Tiznow when a sly inside move resulted in traffic trouble. Also in his favor is the abundance of speed in the race, which should provide his preferred pace scenario. At the very least he would be make a nice addition to your exotic tickets.

5. Majestic City (12-1) - Four out of five of his career wins, including his last start in the Grade 3 Lone Star Handicap, were the result of gaining the lead out of the gate and taking the field all the way. Unfortunately for him the presence of speedy Moreno, Big Cazanova and Batti Man (ARG) make that scenario unlikely. On the brightside he's rounding nicely into form and making his second start for a trainer who does well spotting his horses in graded stakes races.

6. Hoppertunity (7-2) - On a quick two-week turnaround after a non-threatening 3rd in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, he returns to his home track where he owns a solid record of 2-2-1 in six starts. He should get a lively pace to stalk and is likely to at least be somewhere in the mix.

7. Big Cazanova (12-1) - The Grade Californian pacesetter couldn't hang with Moreno and Catch a Flight (ARG), finishing 7th. While he did win the Grade 3 Native Diver at Del Mar in November, it was over the synthetic surface. You have to go back to his maiden win in May of last year to find a win on dirt. Given that he's next to Moreno in the gate, it would not be a surprise to see him reprise his role as pacesetter.

8. Moreno (7-2) - After a disappointing performance in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic he's put in a string of solid efforts this year, including a win in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic. Last out he dueled gamely with Catch Flight (ARG) for a close 2nd in the Grade 2 Californian. He has yet to win at this distance, but barring an unfortunate trip he should be in the mix, if not on top.

9. Catch a Flight (ARG) (5-2) - This Argentine-bred invader from Brazil has wasted little time establishing himself as a stakes player on the West Coast. He ran 3rd to Shared Belief and Moreno in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and then racked up two wins in the Grade 3 Precisionist and Grade 2 Californian. With no Shared Belief and the likelihood of his preferred pace scenario, he could very well nab his first Grade 1 win.

10. Lideris (50-1) - Last year's Gold Cup was his first start in the U.S., and he has yet to come closer than seven lengths of the winner in four starts. That said his form appeared to be a bit better last out in the Californian where he finished 6th. He's won at the distance, and longer, which is more than you can say for some in the field, but he'd need to have a racing lightbulb go off to make an impact here.

11. Finnegan's Wake (6-1) - While this Grade 1 winning turf specialist may seem like an odd entrant, he's well suited for the distance and is stakes placed on the dirt with a 3rd in the 2012 Grade 3 Gotham. He also trains on dirt, but he just doesn't have the same late kick over the dirt as he has on turf. Given the likely pace he could be in the mix with a little luck, and with no Shared Belief or California Chrome it's a smart time to take a shot a Grade 1 on dirt.

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