Melatonin can state his case in Gold Cup
ARCADIA, Calif. – In approximately two minutes on Saturday, Melatonin can show where he stands in the nation’s older horse division at the start of the summer.
Melatonin will start as a contender in Saturday’s $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita after excellent results in his last two starts. Melatonin won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in a 16-1 upset in March and was second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas on April 16, losing by a length to Effinex, a five-time stakes winner.
The Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita is the leading race for older horses at the current spring-summer meeting and an important one in the buildup to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic here on Nov. 5. The winner of the Gold Cup receives a fees-paid berth in the BC Classic through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program.
Melatonin is capable of a victory. Owned by Susan Osborne’s Tarabilla Farms, Melatonin has won 4 of 12 starts and $918,552. This year, he has earned $786,000.
Melatonin’s campaign in the last two months has been geared toward the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Trainer David Hofmans held Melatonin out of the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on May 22 to focus on Saturday’s race, which is run at 1 1/4 miles.
“He’s better now than he was after the Oaklawn Park race,” Hofmans said. “He tucked up a little bit after that race, but now he has his weight on.”
Melatonin had his final major exercise before the Gold Cup on Wednesday, working a half-mile in 49.20 seconds.
“I did it that way the last time,” Hofmans said, referring to the days before the Big Cap.
Melatonin is likely to race near the front. He held an early lead in the Big Cap at 1 1/4 miles and won by 4 1/4 lengths. In the Oaklawn Handicap, Melatonin led early and gave way eventually to Effinex.
The Gold Cup field consists entirely of California-based runners. The race has a projected field of nine, including Bal a Bali, Follow Me Crev, Hard Aces, Hoppertunity, Imperative, Lieutenant Colonel, Second Summer, and Win the Space.
Hoppertunity, third in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on March 26 in his last start, will be favored over Second Summer and Hard Aces, the first two finishers of the Californian Stakes.
Hard Aces won the 2015 Gold Cup at Santa Anita but is winless in eight subsequent starts.
The Gold Cup at Santa Anita will be the first start on the main track for Bal a Bali, who has won 13 of 21 starts and earned $763,478 on turf in Brazil and California. On Wednesday, Bal a Bali had his final blowout for the Gold Cup, working three furlongs in 36.40 seconds.
Thistledown: Ohio Derby
The Ohio Derby continues its rise back toward graded-stakes status Saturday with a solid field of 10 entered in the $500,000 race at Thistledown.
Heading the entries is Mo Tom, the GMB Racing-owned colt trained by Tom Amoss who exits a creditable eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Mo Tom, as has been the case nearly all season, found trouble in the Derby, losing momentum and ground when steadied on the far turn before coming home with decent energy.
Mo Tom had even worse trouble when finishing fourth in the Louisiana Derby, in which at worst he’d have been second to Gun Runner with a clean run, and second in the Risen Star, where he appeared to be on his way to a win over Gun Runner when he was stopped cold in midstretch. Jockey Javier Castellano replaces Corey Lanerie in the irons.
Mo Tom was considered for the Belmont Stakes following the Kentucky Derby, but his connections took a more conservative approach to point to the Ohio Derby. Mo Tom deserves to win his first race since the Lecomte Stakes in January with all his poor luck this year and figures to be a shorterpriced favorite to do so than his 5-2 morning-line odds.
Also in the 1 1/8-mile dirt race are the third-, fourth-, and fifthplace finishers from the May 14 Peter Pan Stakes – Wild About Deb, Adventist, and Decorated Soldier.
Wild About Deb, another horse who was considered for the Belmont Stakes, has been working at Churchill Downs for trainer Phil D’amato, whose main string is based in California. Wild About Deb is the likely second betting choice in the race and might even challenge Mo Tom for favoritism if bettors overlook Mo Tom’s troubled trips.
The rest of the Ohio Derby field includes Thatlookonyerface, Mo Don’t No, Van Damme, Discreet Lover, Riding in the Wind, and Cocked and Loaded.
The Ohio Derby, long the feature of the Thistledown season, lost its graded status in 2014 but, with a purse boost to $500,000 last year, likely is on the way back to being a Grade 3.
A field of 10 was entered for Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Chicago Handicap for fillies and mares over seven furlongs on Polytrack.
The entrants, from the rail out, are Run Zippy Run, City of Trix, You Bought Her, Sweetsoutherndame, Sarah Sis, Kathballu, Athena, Minks Aprise, Seeking Treasure, and Tiz Lately. Kathballu and Athena are cross-entered in an overnight stakes at Churchill. Minks Aprise is trained by Michael Dickinson, who has not run a horse at Arlington since 2003.