Melatonin captures Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Melatonin and Talamo joined forces to romp by 4 1/4 lengths in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in March before missing by a length when traveling to Arkansas for the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) last out on April 16.
The duo returned to the winner’s circle for trainer David Hofmans in this spot after biding their time to the outside of Lieutenant Colonel, who set splits of :23.83, :47.70 and 1:11.48. Melatonin glided past that rival with a quarter-mile remaining, then had to contend with 24-1 longshot Win the Space in the stretch.
Melatonin held a short head lead over Win the Space before finally beginning to pull away late to complete 1 1/4 miles over the fast Santa Anita Park dirt in 1:59.79. He returned $5.60 as the 9-5 favorite.
Win the Space proved best of the rest despite being sent off at the longest odds on the board. Hard Aces followed by another three parts of a length in third, just holding that spot by a nose over 3-1 second choice Hoppertunity, who was making his first start here since finishing third in the March 26 Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1).
Imperative, Lieutenant Colonel, Second Summer and Bal a Bali completed the order of finish.
The lightly raced Melatonin shows only two other stakes tries other than the aforementioned trio. The five-year-old gelding finished fifth while making his black-type bow in the Pirate’s Bounty Stakes last September at Del Mar and followed that with a runner-up effort in the Eddie D. Stakes (G3) on October 3 in his penultimate start of 2015.
The bay son of Kodiak Kowboy has really come on this season, and is now 5-3-3 from 13 career starts while accumulating $1,218,552 in lifetime earnings.
Bred in Kentucky by S. D. Brilie L.P., Melatonin was a $20,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase before RNAing for $15,000 as a Barretts January two-year-old. He’s the first registered stakes winner out of the stakes-placed Yankee Victor mare Yanquee Reign and comes from the same female family as multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Twice the Vice.
Melatonin photo courtesy of Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com
GOLD CUP AT SANTA ANITA QUOTES
Joe Talamo, jockey Melatonin, winner: “He’s a jockey’s dream. He just does his thing. He does not have to go to the lead. As you saw, he laid second, comfortably. What impressed me the most about him today was when Win the Space came to him at the eighth-pole, he just battled back. He gives you everything he’s got.
“He’s not a horse that grabs the bit much, but he relaxed really well, two, three deep today. Especially going distances like this, you don’t see horses coming from too far back. That helps him, the fact that he can inherit the lead whenever he wants to.
“If they went even quicker, it wouldn’t have mattered. It’s not like he has to be up on the pace, he could have been further back.
“I knew I had a lot of horse turning for home, but my horse dug in so nicely. I don’t know what else to say, he’s an unbelievable horse and the sky’s the limit.”
David Hofmans, trainer Melatonin, winner: “I think mostly we gave him enough time to get rid of that awful thing in his body (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis or EPM). I think that held him back and since we got rid of that he’s developed into such a nice horse.
“The emotions were pretty high. I’m normally low key but today I was really nervous. It was his big test today. I thought there were some quality horses in here that he had to beat in order to think about going on (to bigger things). The difference is that today he validated himself. Any horse can beat any horse, on any given day. But to do it again, and maybe even again, then you start thinking.
“He’s a very smart horse. You can see that Joe could do whatever he wanted with him. They’re perfect together.
“We were gunning for the Breeders’ Cup Classic anyway but to win this is quite a bonus! (The Gold Cup is a Win & You’re In Challenge race guaranteeing Melatonin automatic berth, with fees paid, into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic [G1] at Santa Anita on November 5).”
Gary Stevens, jockey Win the Space, second: “It was a huge run. It was a fun race. He settled great for his first time going a mile and a quarter and it was just a really professional race from him. Great job and well done by everybody in that barn.”