Royal Ship and Mike Smith (outside) edge past Country Grammer to win the Californian
Formerly a turf specialist, Richard Mandella’s Royal Ship appears ready for his close-up on dirt, as he heads Monday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. Originally run and won in 1938 by Seabiscuit at Hollywood Park, Monday’s renewal has attracted a field of seven 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/4 miles and will mark the 83rd renewal of one of North America’s most prestigious races for handicap division horses.
Prominent among those who will try to deny Royal Ship is the John Shirreffs-trained Express Train, who returns to Santa Anita following a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap and the Michael McCarthy-trained Rushie, who was beaten a nose in the ungraded Oaklawn Mile on April 10.
A 5-year-old gelding who was making only his third start on dirt, Brazilian-bred Royal Ship stalked the pace proved gamest late in taking the Grade 2, 1 1/8 mile Californian Stakes by neck on April 17. A Group 1 winner on grass in Brazil, Royal Ship, a 5-year-old gelding by Midshipman, had been winless in four starts for Mandella prior to the Californian.
In winning the iconic Gold Cup prep, Royal Ship earned a Gold Cup-best last-out Beyer Speed figure of 108 and will hope to stretch his current form to a mile and a quarter—a distance that’s he’s never tried.
Owned by Fox Hill Farms, Inc. and Siena Farm, LLC, Royal Ship is 12-6-1-2 and will be ridden by Mike Smith for the sixth consecutive time.
A rousing 3 ¼-length winner of the G2 San Pasqual Stakes three starts back on Jan. 30, Express Train opened up turning for home in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, but was overtaken late to be defeated by a half length by Idol.
A 4-year-old colt by Union Rags, Express Train was subsequently made the 9-5 favorite in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap, but finished third, beaten 1 ½ lengths. Owned by Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, Express Train, who is 10-3-4-1, rates a huge chance with regular rider Juan Hernandez back aboard.
A one-mile maiden winner in his second start eight races back on Feb. 1, 2020, Rushie has raced out of town in his last four races, finishing second by a nose on April 10 at Oaklawn Park, seventh by 6 ½ lengths in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland Nov. 7, winning the G2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs by 1 ¾ lengths on Sept. 5 and running third, beaten 8 ¼ lengths, in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on July 11, 2020.
With newly relocated Trevor McCarthy set to ride for the first time, Rushie, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by Liam’s Map who will be trying a mile and a quarter for the first time, will run out of his own stall for the first time since finishing third in the G1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on June 6, 2020. Owned by Jim and Donna Daniell, Rushie is 9-3-2-2 with earnings of $583,151.
GRADE 1 HOLLYWOOD GOLD CUP WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS
IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT
- Royal Ship—Mike Smith—124
- Country Grammer—Flavien Prat—122
- Brown Storm—Umberto Rispoli—122
- Heywoods Beach—Tyler Baze—122
- Rushie—Trevor McCarthy—124
- Two Thirty Five—Abel Cedillo—122
- Express Train—Juan Hernandez—124
First post time for a nine-race card on Memorial Day, Monday, is at 1 p.m. Two other Grade I stakes, the Gamely and the Shoemaker Mile, will highlight the day’s racing. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
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