By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
With a couple of weeks remaining before Justify bids for
history in the Belmont Stakes, we have some time this week to turn our
attention away from the three-year-olds—which have dominated the racing action
over the last six months or so—and focus on the older horses set to compete in
Saturday's $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa
Anita (gr. I).
Seven horses have been entered in the ten-furlong event,
though three of them—Accelerate, City of Light, and Dr. Dorr—stand far above the others in terms of accomplishments and
speed figures. It would come as no surprise to see them sweep the
trifecta, but which one is the most likely winner?
Certainly utmost respect must be given to Accelerate, who cruised to a 5 ½-length
win in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) over this track and distance in March.
The well-bred son of Lookin at Lucky has been viewed as more of a
miler throughout his career, but he's shaken off that image this season. In
addition to his Santa Anita Handicap victory, he overcame a troubled trip to win
the nine-furlong San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) and was beaten just a neck going
the same distance in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) last time out.
But wait—the winner of the Oaklawn Handicap was City of Light, who turned in a gutsy
performance to upset Accelerate in his first start around two turns. City of
Light had previously established himself as a top-notch sprinter, winning the
Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Triple Bend Stakes (gr. I) going seven furlongs, but
he elevated his game to a new level in the Oaklawn Handicap, overcoming a very
wide trip to rally past Accelerate and defeat his more heralded rival in a
prolonged homestretch battle.
City of Light and Accelerate have earned triple-digit
Beyer speed figures in all of their races this year, with City of Light
climbing to a 107 in the Oaklawn Handicap and Accelerate peaking at 110 in the
Santa Anita Handicap, so we know they're fast. But could they be overshadowed
on Saturday by the up-and-coming Dr.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Dr. Dorr is a five-year-old gelding
by Lookin at Lucky, but despite his age he's relatively lightly raced. He ran
just three times apiece in 2016 and 2017, with his lone win coming in an
allowance race, but whatever issues kept him from racing more frequently in the past seem to be behind
him now and he's turned into a different horse in 2018. After scoring a sharp allowance win sprinting 6 ½-furlongs against a quality field at Santa Anita on March 2nd, Dr. Dorr
stretched out in distance for the Santana Mile and delivered another big run, securing
an easy lead before powering home to win by four lengths with a 99 Beyer.
Dr. Dorr stretched out in distance again for the
nine-furlong Californian Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita last month, and the
result was by far his best effort to date. With jockey Joseph Talamo in the
saddle, Dr. Dorr pressed the pace through fractions of :23.28, :47.81, and
1:12.29 before blowing the field away in the homestretch, drawing off to win by
7 ¼ lengths while seemingly having something left in the tank.
The fractional splits and the final time of 1:49.84 weren't
particularly fast at first glance, but it's important to note that Santa Anita
was playing quite slow on the day of the Californian—so slow that Dr. Dorr
received a 108 Beyer for his victory, putting him right in the mix against
Accelerate and City of Light.
Dr. Dorr will be stretching out another furlong in
distance for the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, and while that is a bit of a question
mark, my gut feeling is that Dr. Dorr is simply getting good at the right time
and won't have an issue with the extra distance. Baffert has won this race six times
in the past, including last year with Cupid, and Dr. Dorr appears poised to work
out a perfect trip setting or stalking the pace. Since Accelerate and City of
Light figure to attract plenty of wagering support based on the overall
accomplishments, there could be an opportunity to get a decent price on the
less-heralded Dr. Dorr.
Here's one other fact that's worth mentioning—according to
the DRF Formulator, Baffert has compiled a simply remarkable record with horses
going ten furlongs in main-track graded stakes races. Over the last five years,
Baffert has had runners in 27 such races and has won 13 of them, a staggering 48% success rate. I have to think that Baffert will have Dr. Dorr ready to roll on
Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Gold Cup at
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.