07/03/2012 3:14PM

Hollywood Park: Thirtyfirststreet will take another shot in Hollywood Gold Cup

Shigeki Kikkawa
Thirtyfirststreet will try Grade 1 company again in Saturday's Hollywood Gold Cup at Betfair Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Four months later, the eighth-place finish by Thirtyfirststreet in the Santa Anita Handicap still stings co-owner Mark Gorman.

Turning into the stretch, Thirtyfirststreet was fourth when jockey Eswan Flores guided the 4-year-old colt to the rail, aiming for a narrow gap. There was not enough space. An 83-1 shot, Thirtyfirststreet struck the rail and faded to finish eighth.

“We thought we’d finish first or second there,” Gorman said.

Thirtyfirststreet lost his next two starts – an eighth in the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on April 1 and a fourth in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park on May 5.

Those setbacks have not deterred Gorman and partners Neil Haymes and Sterling Stable from trying for another lucrative prize – Saturday’s $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles.

The task is formidable: Beat Game On Dude, the leading older horse in California and, arguably, the United States.

Game On Dude is the 124-pound highweight. Thirtyfirststreet will carry 112 pounds. Gorman describes the weight break as “a big advantage,” but realizes what Thirtyfirststreet must accomplish.

“We’re taking a shot,” he said. “We’ve built him up to give him every chance to compete against this type of horse. We thought we had a shot in the Big Cap, and we got knocked against the rail. That ended that.”

Gorman said the disappointment of the Big Cap defeat on March 3 led to a quick turnaround for the New Orleans Handicap, where Thirtyfirststreet raced wide throughout.

“The mistake we made after the Big Cap was we tried to make up for that loss,” he said. “We traveled across the country to New Orleans with four weeks between races. Who knows what knocking against the rail did to him?”

In the Mervyn LeRoy, Thirtyfirststreet finished fourth of nine, 5 1/4 lengths behind Morning Line, who led throughout.

“He raced good, it’s just that Morning Line had it all his own way,” Gorman said.

After that race, the goal for the owners and trainer Doug O’Neill became the Gold Cup, with ample rest time in between.

“We’ve always thought he was really special,” Gorman said. “We kind of raced him too much. We want to give him another chance. Unfortunately, we’re racing against some good horses.”

Game On Dude will be a heavy favorite in an expected field of seven. The other probable starters, with weights, are Richard’s Kid (120), Kettle Corn and Uh Oh Bango (both at 117), Anthony’s Cross (115), and Spud Spivens (114).

Bob Baffert trains Game On Dude and Richard’s Kid. Each won a stakes in his last start. Game On Dude won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes by 7 1/4 lengths on June 2. Richard’s Kid, who raced in Dubai in 2011 and earlier this year, won the Prove It Stakes over 1 3/8 miles on June 8 in his first start in the United States since a win in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes in October 2010.

Anthony’s Cross is trained by Eoin Harty, who put the chances of the 4-year-old colt starting at “50-50.”

Anthony’s Cross, winner of the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes in 2011, finished fourth in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on May 28, but was promoted to third after a rival was disqualified for causing trouble in the stretch. Anthony’s Cross was steadied in the final sixteenth, which Harty said clearly cost a placing.

“It’s hard to say, but I think he would have been second,” he said.

Winning the Gold Cup against a rival such as Game On Dude will be difficult, Harty said.

“He has to have a bad day, and we have to have a good day,” he said. “This is a huge step up in class.”