August 18, 2022

Stilleto Boy, Royal Ship clash in Hollywood Gold Cup

Stilleto Boy and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Californian Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Monday’s $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) attracted just five entrants, but the 1 1/4-mile feature serves up an intriguing clash between Stilleto Boy and Royal Ship at Santa Anita. It is also a prelude to the Grade 1 turf events on the card, the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Shoemaker Mile (G1) as well as the Gamely (G1).

Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) – Race 4 (5:30 p.m. ET)

Brazilian import Royal Ship just missed by a head in last year’s Gold Cup to Country Grammer, who’s since advertised the form in rich prizes abroad. After going close in the Saudi Cup (G1), Country Grammer captured the Dubai World Cup (G1).

Royal Ship regained the winning thread in his April 10 comeback in the John Shear Mile, drawing off by five resounding lengths. Mike Smith maintains his partnership with the Richard Mandella veteran in post 2.

But Stilleto Boy enters in razor-sharp form after wiring the April 30 Californian (G2). That was the first time that the Shackleford colt rolled on the front end, on dirt, since his victory in last summer’s Iowa Derby. Subsequently sold and transferred to Ed Moger Jr., Stilleto Boy kept collecting minor awards in such events as the Awesome Again (G1), Malibu (G1), Pegasus World Cup (G1), and Santa Anita H. (G1). Reverting to more prominent tactics with new rider Juan Hernandez led to a turnaround in the Californian, where he turned the tables on Big ‘Cap hero Express Train. Stilleto Boy, drawn in post 5, will try to keep the momentum going as the 124-pound highweight.

Sean McCarthy sends out a pair of former Bob Baffert trainees in Spielberg and Defunded.

Spielberg, the remote third in the Californian, has not won since the 2020 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). The $1 million Keeneland September yearling was runner-up in the 2021 Southwest (G3), splitting champions Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior, but was sidelined following his eighth in the Florida Derby (G1). Although he resumed Jan. 14 with an allowance score for the now-suspended Baffert, Spielberg again found life tougher at a higher level when fourth in the San Pasqual (G2) and Big ‘Cap. Switched to McCarthy ahead of the Californian, the son of Union Rags gets the services of Flavien Prat here.

Defunded comes off a convincing allowance tally on May 8 in his debut for McCarthy. The Dialed In gelding had romped in his prior start in a Del Mar allowance last August, bringing a two-race winning streak into Memorial Day. Defunded has yet to win a stakes, but he got progressively closer versus sophomores last term – a distant fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), a nearer fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G2), runner-up in the Affirmed (G3), and a near-miss as the 3-5 favorite in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3). Regular rider Abel Cedillo has the return call.

Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up the mount on the Michael McCarthy-trained There Goes Harvard. Second in last summer’s Ellis Park Derby in his only prior stakes attempt, the son of Will Take Charge exits back-to-back allowance wins. There Goes Harvard dead-heated with Parnelli on the Santa Anita main track April 17, then scored handily on the turf May 14.