City of Light winning the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) - © BENOIT PHOTO

City of Light winning the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) –
© BENOIT PHOTO

Santa Anita Park takes center stage on Saturday afternoon as “The Great Race Place” offers racing fans three graded stakes events headlined by the $500,000 Grade 1 Gold Cup.

The fifth race on the nine-race card concludes the early Pick 5, and gets the late sequence started making it an extremely important race for horizontal players.

Here are my thoughts:

The mile and a quarter distance is likely to be a separator on Saturday as two of the major contenders have yet to travel the ten furlong distance despite razor sharp form coming into the Gold Cup. Additionally those that have travelled the mile and a quarter may be better suited for shorter distances.

The pace should be honest early given the presence of several horses that like to be on or right off the early pace. #1 Little Scotty scratched out of a high-level optional claimer on Thursday to give Grade 1 company a shot for trainer Vladimir Cerin. He is likely overmatched in here, but his presence is significant since he is all but certain to be sent from his inside draw by hot riding apprentice Asa Espinoza.

With Little Scotty likely on the engine, I expect #2 Accelerate, #4 City of Light and #5 Dr. Dorr to all look for outside stalking trips just off the early pacesetter. This should present a lively first half-mile, which could set things up for #6 Pavel.

The son of Creative Cause makes his first start since a well-beaten fourth in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in late March. The Reddam Racing colt was caught wide on a track that favored inside speed at Meydan and prior to that was caught behind a wall of horses before finding room way too late in the Grade 2 San Pasqual over this racetrack.

Pavel should be able to take advantage of a more favorable race shape in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita after encountering moderate early paces in each of his first two starts as a four-year-old for trainer Doug O’Neill. If jockey Mario Gutierrez can avoid traffic issues on Saturday afternoon, he should have plenty of horse when they turn for home. At 5-1 on odds maker Jon White’s morning line he offers the most value and should get the right setup as he looks for his first Grade 1 victory.

Accelerate got the jump on City of Light in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in mid-April, but still was unable to get the best of the Michael McCarthy trainee. He draws in between Little Scotty and his main rivals, which could present a challenging trip for jockey Victor Espinoza. The son of Lookin At Lucky has a win in two tries at the distance, but that came over a wet/fast surface in the “Big Cap” in March. I prefer others.

The aforementioned City of Light brings a three-race win streak into Saturday, including a Grade 2 victory in his first try around two turns in Arkansas. The son of Quality Road has continued to improve in each start, but the mile and a quarter will be a challenge. I like him more than Accelerate, but 9 to 5 on the line is tough to get too excited about despite the obvious talent.

Dr. Dorr has been a new horse in 2018 rattling off three straight wins for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, including a seven and a quarter length victory in the Grade 2 Californian on April 28th. Like City of Light, the ten furlongs presents a challenge, but he has shown no signs of being limited by distance in his last couple.

#3 Prince of Arabia and #7 Full of Luck appear overmatched, but could pass tiring rivals late for a minor share if they go at it on the front end in the early stages.

Here is how I will bet the Gold Cup at Santa Anita:

$25 Win 6 = $25

$10 Exacta Box 5+6 = $20

$10 Exacta Box 4+6 = $20

Total Budget = $65