How to Wager on the Gold Cup
by Scott Shapiro
Saturday’s nine-race card features four graded stakes races and is headlined by the 78th running of the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
The 1 1/4-mile event did not draw a star-studded field in 2017, but offers horseplayers a competitive group of older male horses with several ways to go both in vertical wagers and for those that will use this race as part of a horizontal sequence.
The Gold Cup morning line favorite is Midnight Storm (#5). The six-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile makes his fourth start of 2017 and first one since a disappointing third-place effort as the 1-2-favorite in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in mid-April.
The Phil D’Amato trainee set fast fractions that day in Arkansas, going :46.49 and 1:10.60 before tiring late.
You can get my Daily Selections each day they run at Southern California by clicking here.
While it is hard to forgive him for losing at a short price it may be easier to look past the effort since it was away from home. His best work has been done at Santa Anita Park, where he has only been worse than second once in six tries over the main track. However, he will not have it easy on the front end in this one given the presence of several rivals with similar running styles in the Gold Cup.
Outside of Midnight Storm, odds-maker John White made three runners 4-1 on the morning line, including American Freedom (#1), one of two for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Pulpit had been training “lights out” before heading to Louisville for the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes on Oaks Day, but he finished a disappointing fourth as the 3-2 favorite.
I am willing to toss his effort earlier this month in Kentucky given the sloppy going and his outside voyage on a day where it paid to be inside during the majority of the card. Baffert adds the blinkers once again after two starts without them and he returns home where he should get a track much more to his liking. I am expecting a huge effort from the Gary and Mary West owned colt.
Follow Me Crev (#2) is also listed as the co-second choice coming off two in-the-money efforts in graded stakes competition over this oval, including a runner-up performance to dominant winner Collected last out in the Grade 2 Californian. The son of Quality Road has not been a win threat in either of his last two efforts, but he should get an honest pace in the Gold Cup, which could set things up for his late run.
Accelerate (#8) is the third of the runners listed at 4-1 on the morning line. The son of Lookin at Lucky has been consistent hitting the board in four straight for John Sadler and Hronis Racing. However, he has yet to win on this surface and has struggled to move forward against the top handicap horses on the West Coast. I am concerned with his ability to get the 10-furlong distance and do not like his chances in this Grade 1 event.
Outside of the top 4, only the second half of the uncoupled Baffert entry, Cupid (#6) has the upside to win this year’s Gold Cup on his best day and one has to wonder how fit he will be coming in off an eight-month layoff. He has some very strong races to go back to in his three-year-old campaign, but he was scratched late before the Californian last month and his quirkiness has always been an issue.
Big John B (#7) may be able to pick up the pieces late if they go fast upfront, but it would be extremely surprising to see him get to the wire first. Thirteen of his 15 wins have come on the turf and he is probably better served going 1 1/2 miles.
Here is how I will wager on the Gold Cup:
I will build my wagers around my top pick, American Freedom (#1). I think he is set for a monster effort after the disappointing run at Churchill Downs. I will need him to run in the top two in order to have a chance to cash in this year’s event:
$1 Trifecta Wheel
1 with 2+5+6+7 with 2+5+6+7+9 = $16
$1 Trifecta Wheel
2+5+6 with 1 with 1+2+5+6+7+9 = $12
$3 Trifecta Key
1 with 2+5+7 = $18
$.50 Superfecta Wheel
1 with 2+5 with 2+5+6+7 with ALL = $30
$.50 Superfecta Wheel
2+5 with 1 with 2+5+6+7 with ALL = $30
$20 Daily Double
Enola Gray (#8) with American Freedom (#1) = $20
Total Budget = $126