Santa Anita's Gold Cup lacks out-of-state competition, but the $500,000 prize is still a big draw

The richest race of Santa Anita’s spring-summer meeting, the $500,000 Gold Cup, will take place Saturday at the Arcadia track.


Due to the lack of top handicap horses in California and the failure to attract elite, out-of-state horses, changes could be coming in both that race and the Santa Anita Handicap, held in March.

“We don’t want to discontinue it,” Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for the Stronach Group, said this week when asked about the Gold Cup.

Ritvo said the Stronach Group, which operates Santa Anita, must formulate a plan to use the race’s history and lucrative purse to help attract top horses and fans. The Gold Cup was taken over by Santa Anita after Hollywood Park closed.

“The sport is evolving,” he said.

In this year’s edition, competition will focus on City Of Light, a winner of three consecutive graded stakes who’s never run as far as 1 1/4 miles. Trained by Mike McCarthy, City of Light won Grade I stakes at seven furlongs — the Malibu Stakes and the Triple Bend Stakes. Then City of Light won the Oaklawn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on April 14, beating Santa Anita Handicap winner Accelerate.

Accelerate will be back for a rematch, along with the developing Dr. Dorr, a Bob Baffert-trained 5-year-old gelding that’s owned by his wife, Jill. Dr. Dorr is three for three this year. While Baffert is focused on preparing his 3-year-old colt, Justify, for the Belmont Stakes, he sure would like to make his wife happy with a victory.

The Gold Cup is the fifth race on a nine-race card that includes the $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes on the turf and the $300,000 Gamely Stakes on the turf for fillies and mares.

It’s been an interesting week in local horse racing. On Thursday at a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, there was a discussion regarding how stewards have been handling interference rulings. The CHRB is examining whether the rules need to be clearer for declaring a disqualification.

“You have to do something about it; heads need to roll,” thoroughbred owner Nick Alexander said.

Santa Anita also will have racing Monday because of the Memorial Day holiday.