October 3, 2023

Royal Ship heads nine in San Diego

Royal Ship
Royal Ship and jockey Mike Smith (outside) outleg Country Grammer (inside) to win the Californian Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

San Diego (G2) – Race 10 (9:30 p.m. ET)

Winner of the Californian (G2) and a head second in the May 31 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), Royal Ship tops nine older horses in Saturday’s $250,000 San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar. Mike Smith will be up on the five-year-old gelding for Richard Mandella.

A Grade 1 turf victor in his native Brazil, Royal Ship made his U.S. debut on Del Mar’s turf last summer. His form turned around when moving to the main track this spring, and after battling Country Grammar in the Californian and Gold Cup, Royal Ship won’t have to face that rival in the San Diego.

Express Train looms as a dangerous opponent. Runner-up in the Santa Anita H. (G1) three back, the Grade 2-winning colt has finished third in the Oaklawn H. (G2) and Gold Cup in his last two outings. The four-year-old figures to appreciate the cut back to 1 1/16 miles, and Express Train owns a 3-2-1-0 record at Del Mar. Juan Hernandez rides the son of Union Rags for John Shirreffs.

Magic On Tap will stretch back to two turns after a two-length victory in the seven-furlong Triple Bend (G2) on May 29. A promising juvenile back in 2018, the five-year-old horse has raced sparingly at times over the last four years, but the gray son of Tapit will be making his fourth start of the season Saturday for Bob Baffert. Abel Cedillo rides.

Grade 2 winner Rushie found 10 furlongs too taxing in the Gold Cup, checking in fourth, but the four-year-old gray colt is eligible to show more in this spot for Michael McCarthy. Umberto Rispoli picks up the assignment. Mo Mosa invades following nice score in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) Lone Star Park, and Tripoli brings a two-race win streak to his stakes debut.