Gold Cup will probably be missing biggest stars

Both Well Armed, a 14-length winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March, and the ultra-consistent Tiago were absent from the $250,000 Californian — the final major prep for the $700,000 Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11 — and there’s little chance that either will run in the Gold Cup.

Actually, Well Armed is a definite no-go. Trainer Eoin Harty is aiming for a return sometime during the Del Mar meet, perhaps on Aug. 2 in the San Diego Handicap. That would set him up perfectly for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Sept. 6. No word yet from the Tiago camp if he’s going to contest the Gold Cup, but the odds are slim. He’s raced only once this year — a third in the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 2 — and even though trainer John Shirreffs says Tiago does not require a lot of work to get into racing shape, it’s unlikely he’ll try a race like the Gold Cup off a five-month layoff.

Even Rail Trip, who finished second in the Mervyn LeRoy and again in the Californian, is not a definite for the longer Gold Cup, according to trainer Ron Ellis.

“I thought he ran awesome (in the Californian),” Ellis said. “He turned the tables on Ball Four. It’s just a tough situation when you have two speed horses in there, and it cost him in the end. Without Ball Four in the race I think we’re an easy winner. We’ll see about the Gold Cup. I want to see how he comes out of this. I’m not sure if farther is better for him.”

The Gold Cup is 1 1/4 miles on Cushion Track, whereas the Californian was 1 1/8 miles. Ball Four, the Mervyn LeRoy winner, did not run nearly as well in the Californian and I’d have to say his status for the Gold Cup is tenuous at best. Although if there is no Rail Trip in the Gold Cup to challenge him early and no other speed enters, well, who knows?

We might be looking at much the same lineup for the Gold Cup as we were the Californian. If I’m a trainer outside of California and I have a good handicap horse in my barn, I’d sure as heck be looking at the Gold Cup. Heck, if I was the connections of Einstein, I’d be looking at it real hard. I think the Gold Cup, without Well Armed and Tiago, would be Einstein’s for the taking, whereas if he goes in the Arlington Million it’s a little more iffy. Einstein’s connections already know he likes synthetics and he’d already be out here for the Pacific Classic if they shipped him here for the Gold Cup. I’d be very tempted if I was them.

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