INGLEWOOD, Calif. (July 11, 2009) — Rail Trip, given a perfect stalking trip by jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., overhauled pacesetter Tres Borrachos on the turn for home and drew off to post a three-length victory in Saturday’s 70th running of the $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park.
Rail Trip, the fifth choice at better than 9-1, covered 1 ¼ miles in a Cushion Track record of 2:00.75 under 116 pounds to top 12 rivals — the largest lineup since Quack prevailed in a 14-horse field in 1972.
Tres Borrachos, a 23-1 outsider ridden by Joseph Talamo, finished 4 ¾ lengths clear of Life Is Sweet, who rallied late but failed in her attempt to become the first filly to win the Grade I classic since Princessnesian in 1968.
Defending champion Mast Track was prominent throughout and finished fourth, followed by favorite Parading in fifth and Californian winner Informed in sixth. Argentine-breds Magnum and Global Hunter finished seventh and eighth, respectively, followed by Dakota Phone, Bullsbay, Song of Navarone, Big Booster and Autism Awareness.
Rail Trip, owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable, won for the sixth time in eight starts for trainer Ron Ellis after finishing second in the Mervyn LeRoy in May and The Californian in June.
“My horse broke out of there running,” Valdivia said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. He started making a run going into the far turn and I felt I was loaded. Before I got to the quarter pole, I thought I’m going to try to break the race open. I didn’t think it was a matter if he was good enough, I just kept thinking whether he could get the mile and one-quarter. I knew they were really going to have to run hard to get by me.”
The ability of Rail Trip to get the Gold Cup distance had been questioned, but he did so with ease.
“He really learned a lot off the two races here,” Ellis said. “The first race here was the first time he was ever challenged and he wasn’t really sure what to do. I thought he ran a really game race last time. He had the battle with Ball Four and put him away but it probably took its toll in the end. He got a perfect ride by Valdivia today and it just all worked out.
“Physically, he looks like a mile and one-quarter horse and he’s always trained like a mile and one-quarter horse, but when you have Carson City staring you in the face, you get a little nervous,” Ellis added. “He almost looks like he might be better at a mile and one-quarter than a mile and that’s what we had to try. I think horses get labeled a little too early in life. People wanted to label him a miler, but it was a little premature.”
Rail Trip, a 4-year-old son of Jump Start, banked $420,000 to increase his earnings to $667,790. He paid $21.40, $10.60 and $6.20. Tres Borrachos returned $21.60 and $11.80, while the show payoff on Life Is Sweet was $4.
“He was so relaxed when he came by the stands the first time and that’s something we’ve really been working on,” Ellis said. “All the races that he’s run have been a build up to this. It’s pretty satisfying when a plan works out. This was the first big race that made sense. A lot of people wanted to rush him into the Santa Anita Handicap, but he just wasn’t mentally ready for that.
“He was my Derby horse as a 2-year-old,” Ellis added. “I pushed him as far as I could, but finally he ended up with a chip in his ankle and we took it out. Once he missed the Derby we gave him plenty of time because we thought he would make a good older horse.”
The victory was the first for the Siegels, Ellis and Valdivia in Hollywood Park’s premier race.
“It is very special to win a race like this,” Samantha Siegel said. “It is historical — it’s just a great pleasure to win a race like this.”
Life Is Sweet, the stablemate of unbeaten mare Zenyatta, ran in the Gold Cup rather than tangle with the champion again in last week’s Vanity Handicap. Twelfth on the backstretch, she rallied from 11th in the final furlong.
“She ran okay,” jockey Garrett Gomez said. “I still believe she doesn’t handle this race track as well as she does Santa Anita’s. At the half-mile pole I was actually losing ground. They wanted me to make one run, take my time with her, and that’s what I did. Usually she’s taking me to them, but in her two races here, halfway through the race she was off the bridle.”
Tres Borrachos, who scored an 11-1 upset here last summer in the Swaps Stakes, earned the second biggest payday of his career with second money of $140,000.
“He was going real easy early,” Talamo said. “When he gets to the lead, that’s his forte. He’s got such a big heart. Rail Trip just had a little bit more horse than us. I looked back at the wire and I was surprised he was so far in front of the rest of the field.”
Kent Desormeaux, who flew west from New York for the second time in a week after riding Gozzip Girl to victory in the American Oaks on July 5, said Parading never hit his best stride.
“He was comfortable,” he said. “He left the gate in a beautiful gallop and he stayed in that beautiful gallop — couldn’t get him out of it. He was very happy on the race track. Usually happy horses are fast horses, but he was just happy to keep galloping along.”
In the co-featured $250,000 Royal Heroine Mile, Rafael Bejarano guided Tuscan Evening to victory by a nose over Patricia’s Gem with Gotta Have Her another 1 ¾ lengths back in third.
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