This Saturday is the 72nd renewal of one of the top handicap races on the West Coast, the Grade 1 $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. If you look back at some of the names of the winners of this race, you will get a veritable who's who of racing royalty. Names like Seabiscuit, Citation, Swaps, Ack Ack, Affirmed, Ferdinand, Cigar, and Skip Away have all been to the Winner's Circle following the Hollywood Gold Cup.
However, oddly enough, there are only two horses that have ever won consecutive runnings of the Hollywood Gold Cup and they both won three in a row. Native Diver turned the trick from 1965-1967 and Lava Man also scored a three-peat from 2005-2007. Native Diver was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1978 and while it is unlikely Lava Man will join him there, Lava Man certainly was no slouch when it came to racing, winning 17 of 47 starts and over $5,000,000 in purse money. That's not bad for a horse that was up for a claiming tag early in his fine career. Interestingly enough, both Native Diver and Lava Man were California-breds.
There is a Kentucky-bred that has the opportunity to join that short list as a repeat winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday. Awesome Gem was relatively ignored by the bettors last year at odds of 8-1 and ended up springing a nice upset over 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup winner, Rail Trip, and Richard's Kid, who was a back-to-back winner of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar in 2009 and 2010. Awesome Gem has won only once since that victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup last July. He took the prize in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap two starts back on May 30. He then followed that up with a runner-up result in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows in Iowa. Is this stone closer starting to round into form to make it possible for him to become just the third back-to-back Hollywood Gold Cup winner? The Gold Cup will be the feature race on the blog for the weekend selections on Friday.
Here is the link to watch Awesome Gem's victory in the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzkZc7o8pOI. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE.