Santa Anita: How to bet the 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 30th, 2021

Santa Anita is celebrating Memorial Day with a high-class afternoon of horse racing. Three Grade 1 stakes are on the agenda, including the $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1).

The Hollywood Gold Cup is the second of the “big three” 1 1/4-mile dirt races contested in California each season; the others are the Santa Anita H. (G1) and the Pacific Classic (G1). Seven horses have turned out to contest the 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup, and a competitive event appears to be on tap.

Key contenders are tough to split

We’re unlikely to see anything resembling an odds-on favorite in the Hollywood Gold Cup betting. Four runners rank above the rest from an achievements perspective, but they’re difficult to split. #1 Royal Ship (5-2) and #2 Country Grammer (5-2) ran one-two in a fast renewal of the 1 1/8-mile Californian (G2) at Santa Anita last month, but they were only separated by a neck, and it’s hard to favor one over the other in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

#7 Express Train (2-1) won the 1 1/8-mile San Pasqual (G2) during the winter at Santa Anita, but subsequently gave up a clear lead to finish second in the Santa Anita H., after which he checked in third in the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn H. (G2) at Oaklawn Park. I wonder if these longer trips are pressing the limits of Express Train’s stamina, considering one of his best races came when sprinting to second place in the seven-furlong Malibu (G1).

The distance of the Hollywood Gold Cup is also a question mark for #5 Rushie (5-1), whose signature victory came over one mile in the Pat Day Mile (G2) last summer.

Longshot offers upside for high-profile connections

We could attempt to split hairs and choose one short-priced runner over the others. But a more enticing strategy might be to think outside the box and play the up-and-coming mid-range longshot #4 Heywoods Beach (5-1).

Heywoods Beach is trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing, by far the most dominant team in recent renewals of California’s major 1 1/4-mile dirt races. Since 2015, they’ve won seven out of 19 editions of the Santa Anita H., Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic, sending out such accomplished runners as Accelerate, Higher Power, Hard Aces, Gift Box, and Combatant.

Could Heywoods Beach be the next Grade 1 star for Sadler and Hronis Racing? Formerly a multiple stakes-placed turf campaigner, the son of Speightstown has really stepped up his game since switching to dirt last month. After finishing third by 1 1/2 lengths in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita, Heywoods Beach stretched out over 1 1/4 miles and dominated another allowance event by 2 3/4 lengths.

The latter effort produced a competitive 100 Brisnet Speed rating, suggesting Heywoods Beach has the talent to compete against a high caliber of competition. He still has upside on dirt, and Speightstown has sired a bevy of major winners over 1 1/4 miles, so I see a lot of appeal to playing Heywoods Beach on top.

How to bet the Hollywood Gold Cup

Since Heywoods Beach is 5-1 on the morning line, a large win bet will be our primary focus. But we’ll also play him on top in a trifecta, emphasizing Royal Ship, Country Grammer, and Express Train underneath.

$21 to win on #4 Heywoods Beach
$1 Trifecta: 4 with 1,2,7 with 1,2,5,7 ($9)
Total: $30

Good luck!