06/27/2008 12:00AM

Heatseeker's absence opens up Gold Cup

Benoit & Associates
Go Between has not started since finishing second after a wide trip in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland on April 20.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The absence of Heatseeker from Saturday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup has turned a race with a heavy favorite into one that has become a more intriguing betting race.

Heatseeker, who was declared on Friday after developing swelling in an ankle, would have been heavily favored in the Gold Cup. Without him, the Gold Cup has several logical contenders among its nine remaining entrants.

The Gold Cup, to be run at 1 1/4 miles over Cushion Track, is the 10th race on an 11-race program that features four stakes and a guaranteed pick six pool of $500,000. First post time is noon, Pacific.

The new favorite is likely to be Go Between, an invader from New York with a proven record of running well in California. Trained by Bill Mott for Peter Vegso, Go Between won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita in January and was a fast-closing second to Heatseeker in the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

Go Between has not started since finishing second after a wide trip in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland on April 20. Trainer Bill Mott said earlier this week that he is concerned that Go Between's three recorded workouts at Belmont Park in June will leave him shy of his best condition.

Go Between must beat two other outstanding older horses - Student Council, the winner of the Pimlico Special in May, and Tiago, who has won two graded stakes on synthetic tracks in the last year.

The others entrants are Perfect Drift, the 9-year-old gelding with career earnings of more than $4.6 million; the 2008 stakes winners Big Booster and McCann's Mojave; and the outsiders Mast Track, Racketeer, Spice Route.

There will be considerable support for Tiago, who beat Heatseeker in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas in April and was second to Heatseeker in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 31.

Without Heatseeker in the field, Tiago has inherited the role of starting highweight at 121 pounds. Earlier this week, trainer John Shirreffs watched Tiago gallop strongly at Hollywood Park. During the gallop, Tiago left an exercise rider holding a firm grip to prevent the 4-year-old from doing too much in his daily exercise.

"He's been pretty tough," Shirreffs said. "He's a very strong horse. He's coming into the race very well."

Tiago is winless in three starts at 1 1/4 miles, finishing seventh in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, fifth in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic, and fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap in March. In the latter race, he was beaten four lengths by Heatseeker.

Shirreffs threw out the result of the Big Cap, citing a bad start from Tiago. "He came out of the gate in the Santa Anita Handicap and kind of looked around," Shirreffs said. "Champs Elysees, to his inside, didn't break and Tiago was like, Where's my company? It cost him a lot of position."

Student Council won the Pimlico Special in the mud last month, and was sixth in the Big Cap. Now trained by Steve Asmussen, Student Council won the Pacific Classic in a 23-1 upset last August when trained by Vladimir Cerin.