Hard Aces Wins The Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Just over an hour after American Pharoah’s connections celebrated the colt’s Triple Crown win with a parade Saturday before an enthusiastic crowd of fans at Santa Anita Park, his jockey, Victor Espinoza, was back in the winners’ circle again.
Hard Aces – who went off as the fourth choice at nearly 8-1– just edged out Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity by a nose to collect his second victory this year in the $500,000 Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Trainer John Sadler lauded Espinoza’s ride on Hard Aces, a 5-year-old son of Hard Spun.
“He did a beautiful job with him and he’s not an easy horse to ride. He’s a very difficult horse to ride so Victor’s (gotten) to know him as he’s gone forward with him for two or three races …,” Sadler said.
The race pitted Hard Aces against two familiar rivals, Moreno and favored Catch a Flight, who had outrun him in the Santa Anita Handicap and the Californian.
Hard Aces and Espinoza were able to capitalize on a fast pace in the Gold Cup to “put it all together for the big one today,” his trainer said.
Sadler said the horse will “stay home” and run “right in our own backyard in Del Mar” for the Pacific Classic Aug. 22. The horse also earned his way into the Breeders’ Cup Classic because the Gold Cup is a “Win and You’re In” race, he noted.
It’s been a big few weeks for Sadler, who won the Shoemaker Mile with Talco two weeks ago and the Summertime Oaks with Stellar Wind last week.
Sadler called it a “really unbelievable run we’ve had.”
“We’re going to enjoy these races and kind of work forward,” he said.