Hollywood Gold Cup: Witnessing First-Time Grade 1 Victories

The Hollywood Gold Cup: A Rich Racing Legacy

The Hollywood Gold Cup is a prestigious race that holds a special place in horse racing history. Throughout the years, this iconic event has been won by legendary horses and attended by movie stars, cementing its status as one of the West Coast’s most significant races for older horses. In this article, we will explore the rich legacy of the Hollywood Gold Cup, its historical significance, and the contenders vying for victory in the upcoming edition.

A Storied History

Dating back to 1938, the Hollywood Gold Cup was the flagship race of Hollywood Park, attracting top-class racehorses and capturing the attention of the racing community. Notably, the inaugural Gold Cup was triumphantly won by the beloved Seabiscuit, a true movie star of the racing world. Over the years, the race has seen the likes of Triple Crown champions Affirmed and Citation, solidifying its reputation as a prestigious event showcasing the best in the sport.

However, in 2013, Hollywood Park closed its doors, marking the end of an era. The Gold Cup found a new home at Santa Anita Park, where it was temporarily renamed the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Yet, in 2020, race organizers decided to honor the race’s esteemed history and revert to its original name, the Hollywood Gold Cup.

A West Coast Showdown

The Hollywood Gold Cup holds a unique position in the West Coast racing calendar, sandwiched between two other marquee races for older horses – the Santa Anita Handicap in March and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. It is a race that every West Coast trainer aspires to win, and its reputation makes it an essential addition to any trainer’s resume.

Tracing the Footsteps of Legends

The Hollywood Gold Cup boasts a winner’s roll that reads like a who’s who of racing greatness. Triple Crown champions such as Affirmed and Citation retired after winning this storied race, cementing their places in history. The roll of honor also includes revered horses like the three-time winners Native Diver and Lava Man, as well as two-time winner Game On Dude. Dome of the greatest Kentucky Derby winners, including Real Quiet, Ferdinand, and Swaps, have also tasted victory in the Gold Cup. Not to mention the remarkable achievements of mainstays like Cigar, Ack Ack, Skip Away, Accelerate, and the reigning champion, Country Grammer. It is truly rarified air that the next generation of contenders wishes to breathe.

Breathing the Rarefied Air

In the upcoming edition of the Hollywood Gold Cup, a five-horse field without a Grade 1 win presents an intriguing challenge. Considering the esteemed winners before them, it’s mind-boggling that this year’s lineup consists of Grade 1 maidens. Nevertheless, this creates an excellent opportunity for these horses to etch their names among the greats by winning this coveted race.

Chasing the Gold

Among the compelling contenders is Stilleto Boy, who enters the race as the 7/5 second choice. Coming off an impressive 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Californian, Stilleto Boy demonstrated his talent with a 117 Equibase Speed Figure and a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure. This triumph followed a third-place finish in the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap, where he showcased his versatility by cutting back to 1 1/8 miles. The Californian victory marked Stilleto Boy’s first graded stakes win, beginning to solidify his credentials as a serious contender for the Hollywood Gold Cup.

However, questions linger regarding Stilleto Boy’s ability to excel at the extended distance of 10 furlongs and whether he can maintain his success while leading the pack, as opposed to stalking the pace. Although he has previously shown prowess as a stalker, including a memorable second-place finish to Medina Spirit in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, trainer Ed Moger Jr. believes that Stilleto Boy’s best performances occur when he is strategically positioned halfway to the lead.

Another ship on the Horizon

The other high-profile contender in the mix is Royal Ship, last year’s Californian winner and the current 6/5 favorite. After finishing a mere head behind the winner Country Grammer in the previous edition of the Hollywood Gold Cup, Royal Ship seemed destined for a successful summer campaign. However, the Brazilian gelding experienced a setback, finishing third in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap and subsequently placing a distant seventh in the 10-furlong Pacific Classic. As a result, trainer Richard Mandella decided to give him a well-deserved rest for 7 ½ months.

Recently, Royal Ship returned to competition in the Listed John Shear Mile, where he obliterated the competition, winning by an impressive five lengths as the 1.40/1 favorite. This dominant display suggests that Royal Ship may regain his winning form and establish himself as a major contender in this year’s Hollywood Gold Cup.

The Contenders at a Glance

As we eagerly anticipate the Hollywood Gold Cup, let’s take a closer look at the contenders aiming to etch their names into racing history:

  • There Goes Harvard – Morning Line Odds: 8/1 (Irad Ortiz Jr./Michael McCarthy)
  • Royal Ship – Morning Line Odds: 6/5 (Mike Smith/Richard Mandella)
  • Spielberg – Morning Line Odds: 20/1 (Flavien Prat/Sean McCarthy)
  • Defunded – Morning Line Odds: 3/1 (Abel Cedillo/Sean McCarthy)
  • Stilleto Boy – Morning Line Odds: 7/5 (Juan Hernandez/Ed Moger Jr.)

While these contenders may lack a Grade 1 victory, their determination to prevail in the Hollywood Gold Cup promises an exhilarating battle on the track.


The Hollywood Gold Cup represents a rich tapestry of racing history, showcasing the triumphs of legendary racehorses and captivating the hearts of fans and movie stars alike. The upcoming edition holds the promise of an exciting showdown, bringing together a field of contenders eager to etch their names among the greats. Whether Stilleto Boy can continue his winning ways and overcome the challenges of distance and pace-setting, or if Royal Ship can reclaim his form and secure victory, only time will tell. As the horses line up for the Hollywood Gold Cup, the echoes of past champions reverberate, reminding us of the prestigious legacy they have left behind.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the Hollywood Gold Cup a Grade 1 race?

Yes, the Hollywood Gold Cup is a Grade 1 race, attracting the top horses in the West Coast racing circuit. Its long-standing history and competitive field make it one of the most prestigious events on the calendar.

2. Why is the Hollywood Gold Cup considered significant in racing?

The Hollywood Gold Cup holds immense significance in horse racing due to its rich history and the caliber of horses who have claimed victory. It has been won by Triple Crown champions, Kentucky Derby winners, and other legendary horses, solidifying its reputation as a race that showcases the very best in the sport.

3. When did the Hollywood Gold Cup change venues?

The Hollywood Gold Cup changed venues in 2014 when Hollywood Park, its original home, closed. The race found a new home at Santa Anita Park, where it was temporarily renamed the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. In 2020, organizers decided to revert to the race’s original name to honor its storied past.

4. What is the distance of the Hollywood Gold Cup?

The Hollywood Gold Cup is contested over a distance of 1 ¼ miles, making it a test of stamina and endurance for the horses competing in the race. This distance allows the field to showcase their staying power over a substantial distance.

5. How many horses have won back-to-back Hollywood Gold Cups?

Throughout the history of the Hollywood Gold Cup, several horses have achieved the remarkable feat of winning back-to-back editions of the race. Notable examples include Native Diver, who won three consecutive Gold Cups from 1965-1967, and Lava Man, who emulated this achievement from 2005-2007, etching their names into racing history.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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