06/27/2013 12:51PM

Hollywood Gold Cup: 10 memorable runnings

Hollywood Park photo
Citation in the winner's circle following the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup, the final race of his career.

Thirteen jockeys have won the Hollywood Gold Cup at least twice. Laffit Pincay won the stake nine times, starting when he was 23 and for the ninth time when he was 55. Bill Shoemaker won it eight times, and three riders − Shoemaker, George Woolf and Jerry Lambert − won it three straight years. But for some jockeys − the best in the business, even Hall of Famers − the Gold Cup was elusive. No better example than Chris McCarron, who tried unsuccessfully 19 times. For nine minutes one year, McCarron thought he finally had the Gold Cup won, until the stewards disqualified his horse. That race, in tandem with the only other disqualification in the Gold Cup’s 74 runnings, crammed its way onto the list of the 10 most memorable moments in the stake’s long history. It was not an easy list to compile. Affirmed didn’t make it. Neither did George Woolf’s three in a row, nor Chantal Sutherland, who with Game On Dude last year became the first female jockey to win a Gold Cup. Que sera, sera.


Hollywood Park needed a horse to jump-start the new track, and Seabiscuit needed a race to rejuvenate his reputation. He was assigned 133 pounds, 13 more than anyone else, and when trainer “Silent” Tom Smith first saw the track he said, “It looks like they’re going to grow corn here.” Specify, at 109 pounds, opened up a big lead and was four lengths ahead at the eighth pole. Two ear pricks later, Seabiscuit, under George Woolf, won by 1 1/2 lengths.


Citation was weighted at a feathery 120 pounds. First place was worth $100,000, enough to make him racing’s first millionaire earner. Before a crowd of 50,625, Calumet Farm ran 1-2 as Steve Brooks rode Citation to a four-length win over his stablemate Bewitch. “[Citation] won as his rider pleased,” Daily Racing Form’s chart footnotes read. A few days later, Citation was retired, and his trainer, Jimmy Jones, said he “was the best I ever saw. Probably the best anybody ever saw.”



Carrying 130 pounds, Swaps gave Bill Shoemaker his first of eight Gold Cup wins. Shoemaker took Swaps off the pace as Mister Gus, carrying 117, reeled off an opening half-mile of 45.40 seconds. Shoemaker cut Swaps loose on the far turn, and they finished off the 1 1/4 miles in a track-record 1:58.60. With no place or show betting, Swaps’s $2.30 win payoff was − and is − the lowest in stakes history. Shoemaker also won the next two runnings, with Round Table and Gallant Man.

Native Diver

Bill Shoemaker, Johnny Longden, Ralph Neves, Milo Valenzuela, and Don Pierce all had ridden Native Diver, but it was Jerry Lambert who was the perfect match. Fourth and third in two earlier Gold Cup tries, Native Diver combined with Lambert in 1965 for his first of three straight wins in the stake. In 1966, Native Diver, by another comfortable margin, became the first horse to win consecutive Gold Cups. There was another encore in 1967, when Native Diver, as an 8-year-old, won again. He is still the oldest Gold Cup winner.


Kennedy Road

Mary Jones Bradley, the strong-willed owner of Cougar II, thought Bill Shoemaker had given her horse a bad ride in a Gold Cup prep. She forced her trainer, Charlie Whittingham, to replace his good friend Shoemaker with Laffit Pincay. Bradley was roundly booed in the paddock before the race. Then Shoemaker won the race anyway as Whittingham horses − Kennedy Road, Quack, and Cougar − ran 1-2-3. The Form’s chart caller seemed to be rubbing it in when he wrote: “Kennedy Road, under a great ride . . . gamely took a desperate decision from Quack through the final strides.”



Eleven Stitches/Aptitude

Two Gold Cup outcomes have been decided by the stewards. In 1981, the 17-1 Caterman finished first by a nose over Eleven Stitches, but following an inquiry was disqualified and placed second. John Henry, carrying 130 pounds, finished fourth. In 2001, in a five-horse field, Futural and Chris McCarron crossed the line first by 1 1/2  lengths, but the stewards ruled that they had bumped Skimming, the third-place finisher. The final order was Aptitude (pictured at left), who was not affected by the foul; Skimming; and Futural.



Three of Ferdinand’s eight wins were the Kentucky Derby, the Gold Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Not bad. In the mornings, when Ferdinand and Judge Angelucci worked out together, they were fairly even, but Charlie Whittingham knew Ferdinand was much better, especially at 1 1/4 miles. Shoemaker, 55, had won seven Gold Cups, four with Whittingham horses, and Ferdinand made it eight and five. Ferdinand waved bye-bye to his stablemate at the sixteenth pole. Judge Angelucci finished in a dead heat for second with Tasso.


The last time Cigar had raced in California, in 1993, he was an underachieving grass horse with a bad case of the slows. Moved to New York, sent to trainer Bill Mott, he took to dirt and won 16 straight races, 14 of them stakes. No. 9 was the Gold Cup, over a salty field that included Concern, Best Pal, Tinners Way, and Urgent Request. The margin was 3 1/2 lengths. Jerry Bailey rode one Gold Cup winner before Cigar, three after him.

Sky Jack

When Laffit Pincay won his first of a record nine Gold Cups, with Pleasure Seeker in 1970, the future trainer Doug O’Neill was 2 years old. In 2002, for his ninth Gold Cup, Pincay rode O’Neill’s Sky Jack to a hard-fought win. Momentum, a nose short at the wire, was ridden by Garrett Gomez, who said of Pincay, “I wish that old man would retire, but I guess races like this are why he’s a Hall of Famer.” Sky Jack, paying $5.80, was the second choice.

Lava Man

Three years after Sky Jack, Doug O’Neill was back with Lava Man, who matched Native Diver by winning three straight Gold Cups. Pat Valenzuela rode Lava Man the first time, in 2005, and Corey Naka­tani was aboard for the last two. In 2006, Lava Man also won the Santa Anita Handicap and Del Mar’s Pacific Classic, becoming the first horse to sweep the three races. O’Neill had claimed Lava Man for $50,000, but not willingly. It was really the idea of Steve Kenly, one of his owners. Lava Man wound up earning $5.2 million.