06/22/2016 12:36PM

Melatonin looking to state his case in Gold Cup at Santa Anita

Barbara D. Livingston
Melatonin wins the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March.

ARCADIA, Calif. – In approximately two minutes on Saturday, Melatonin can show where he stands in the nation’s older horse division at the start of the summer.

Melatonin will start as a contender in Saturday’s $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita after excellent results in his last two starts. Melatonin won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in a 16-1 upset in March and was second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas on April 16, losing by a length to Effinex, a five-time stakes winner.

The Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita is the leading race for older horses at the current spring-summer meeting and an important one in the buildup to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic here on Nov. 5. The winner of the Gold Cup receives a fees-paid berth in the BC Classic through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program.

Melatonin is capable of a victory. Owned by Susan Osborne’s Tarabilla Farms, Melatonin has won 4 of 12 starts and $918,552. This year, he has earned $786,000.

Melatonin’s campaign in the last two months has been geared toward the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Trainer David Hofmans held Melatonin out of the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on May 22 to focus on Saturday’s race, which is run at 1 1/4 miles.

“He’s better now than he was after the Oaklawn Park race,” Hofmans said. “He tucked up a little bit after that race, but now he has his weight on.”

Melatonin had his final major exercise before the Gold Cup on Wednesday, working a half-mile in 49.20 seconds.

“I did it that way the last time,” Hofmans said, referring to the days before the Big Cap.

Melatonin is likely to race near the front. He held an early lead in the Big Cap at 1 1/4 miles and won by 4 1/4 lengths. In the Oaklawn Handicap, Melatonin led early and gave way eventually to Effinex.

The Gold Cup field consists entirely of California-based runners. The race has a projected field of nine, including Bal a Bali, Follow Me Crev, Hard Aces, Hoppertunity, Imperative, Lieutenant Colonel, Second Summer, and Win the Space.

Hoppertunity, third in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on March 26 in his last start, will be favored over Second Summer and Hard Aces, the first two finishers of the Californian Stakes.

Hard Aces won the 2015 Gold Cup at Santa Anita but is winless in eight subsequent starts.

The Gold Cup at Santa Anita will be the first start on the main track for Bal a Bali, who has won 13 of 21 starts and earned $763,478 on turf in Brazil and California. On Wednesday, Bal a Bali had his final blowout for the Gold Cup, working three furlongs in 36.40 seconds.

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