Saturday’s $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) will be the first matchup between leading West Coast-based older horses Midcourt and Higher Power. They highlight a field of six in the 1 1/4-mile race at Santa Anita.
It’s a stakes-packed program at The Great Race Place. Three-year-olds will take center stage in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2), which serve as qualifiers for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks in early September. Turf sprinters square off in the $75,000 Desert Code S., and turf sophomores are set for the $150,000 Cinema S. over nine grassy furlongs. California-breds will contest the $100,000 Crystal Water S. and $100,000 Fran’s Valentine S.
Midcourt came on last fall for John Shirreffs when recording consecutive wins in the Comma to the Top S. and Native Diver (G3), displaying improved tactical speed in the latter. The 5-year-old gelding opened 2020 with a convincing wire-to-wire score in the San Pasqual (G2), but Midcourt will need to rebound after finishing a close third as the odds-on favorite in the March 7 Santa Anita H. (G1). He’s eligible to settle better during the opening stages with blinkers off, and Victor Espinoza retains the mount.
Pacific Classic (G1) hero Higher Power concluded last season with thirds in the Awesome Again (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Class (G1). The 5-year-old earned a freshening after a disappointing last-place finish as the favorite in the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), and the son of Medaglia d’Oro figures to appreciate the stretch back out to 10 furlongs. Flavien Prat has the call for John Sadler.
Grade 1 winner Improbable opened the year with a respectable second in the April 11 Oaklawn Mile, beaten less than a length by Tom’s d’Etat. The 4-year-old colt shows a series of long-distance works, breezing a 7-furlongs and a mile over the last two weeks, in preparation, and Drayden Van Dyke will be up for Bob Baffert.
Parsimony exits his first stakes triumph, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths in the Feb. 27 Curlin H. at Meydan, and Mario Gutierrez will guide the 4-year-old for Doug O’Neill. Grade 3 victor Tenfold and Santa Anita H. fourth-placer Brown Storm complete the field.