NEW YORK (June 25, 2015) – The second automatic berth into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is on the line Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., in the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), which will be televised live on NBCSN, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The 1 1/4 mile Gold Cup is the third of 10 programs in the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge: Win and You’re In Series,” featured on NBC and NBCSN from some of America’s most iconic racetracks, all leading to the 32nd Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 30-31 on NBC and NBCSN.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series on Saturday features host Laffit Pincay, III, analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, the Hall of Fame jockey and five-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and reporter Nick Luck. Daily Racing Form’s Matt Bernier serves as handicapper.
The Gold Cup is the second of five televised Breeders’ Cup Classic qualifying races in the series for potential challengers to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who will be paraded in front of the Santa Anita crowd Saturday afternoon. The first “Win and You’re In” qualifier of 2015 was Noble Bird, who won the Stephen Foster on NBCSN at Churchill Downs on June 15.
The Gold Cup field is led by Catch a Flight and Moreno, the first and second-place finishers in the 1 1/8 mile Californian Stakes on May 30 at Santa Anita. Trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Gary Stevens, Catch a Flight is shooting for his third consecutive win, having also won the Precisionist at 1 1/16 miles on May 2. The Argentine bred son of Giant’s Causeway is 5 of 6 lifetime at the 1 ¼ mile distance.
The 5-year-old front-running Moreno finished just half a length behind Catch a Flight in the Californian. Trained by Eric Guillot and ridden by Cornelia Velasquez, Moreno is a career earner of nearly $3 million in 27 starts. This year, he won the Charles Town Classic (G2) by two lengths on April I8; was third by a half-length in the New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds on March 28 and was second to Shared Belief in the Santa Anita Handicap earlier that month. Moreno also won the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga last summer.
Hoppertunity, trained by Bob Baffert, had been idle four months prior to running third, beaten 5 ¾ lengths, in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs June 13 and could likely show major improvement on Saturday with a recent race under his belt. Owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, the 4-year-old colt by Any Given Saturday won the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs four starts back and is a three-time graded stakes winner who will try a mile and quarter for the first time in the Gold Cup.
The complete field for the Gold Cup, to be run as the ninth on a 10-race card Saturday, with jockeys in post-position order: Batti Man, Fernando Perez; Hard Aces, Victor Espinoza, Poshsky, Flavien Prat; Motown Men, Tyler Baze; Majestic City; Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia; Big Cazanova, Corey Nakatani; Moreno, Cornelio Velasquez; Catch a Flight, Gary Stevens; Lideris, Joe Talamo and Finnegans Wake, Mike Smith.