Count Again wins his second G1 by claiming the Shoemaker

Upsets were the order of the day at Santa Anita on Monday with short-odds favorites beaten in all three G1 contests, most notably when There Goes Harvard put away big names Royal Ship and Stilleto Boy in the historic Hollywood Gold Cup. The fearsome late closer Count Again outran odds-on Smooth Like Strait in the Shoemaker Mile, while ex-Brit Ocean Road continued her rapid progression in the US when finishing fast and late to take the Gamely.

Hollywood Gold Cup

Harvard makes the grade

On an afternoon when chalk players had their fingers burned at Santa Anita, There Goes Harvard caused the biggest upset when landing the feature Hollywood Gold Cup on his first start at Graded level.

Before the gates opened the race was expected to be between proven G1 runners Stilleto Boy and Royal Ship, but both came up empty. Instead, 8-1 fourth-choice There Goes Harvard sat some way off the brisk fractions set by Defunded before moving smoothly to the lead at the sixteenth-pole, then driving on to beat the dogged long-time leader by a length, stopping the clock in 2:02 and three-fifths.

Even-money favourite Royal Ship was a never-competitive third, beaten a further three and a quarter lengths, while the inconsistent and frustrating Stilleto Boy pressed the pace before fading through the stretch, finishing fourth.

“He was fighting me going into the first turn,” said jockey Irad Ortiz, who enjoyed a banner day on a holiday from the New York circuit with four winners, two in G1s. “They went a little fast. I tried to let him settle a little bit, and he did come back to me on the backside. That was the key, and then he responded really well.”

There Goes Harvard was coming off the back of two wins in allowance optional claimers at Santa Anita, and the only time he’s missed the board in 12 starts was when he finished without his rider in a Churchill Downs maiden. The $240,000 he earned here more than doubled his lifetime bankroll but there was no fluke about the result, although it was certainly a surprise and a last-minute one at that, as the late-maturing four-year-old was the last horse entered in the race.

“It was a small field and sometimes you have to take a chance,” said trainer Michael McCarthy. “The horse was doing well and deserved a shot. I knew the mile and a quarter wouldn’t be an issue.”

Shoemaker Mile

Count Again does it again

Half an hour later Irad Ortiz was back in the winner’s circle after Count Again had produced his usual whirlwind late finish to take the Shoemaker Mile, his second G1 score in his last three starts.

Ortiz was happy to let the 5-2 second-choice bring up the rear of the six-runner field, as longshot barnmate Dance Some Mo led odds-on favourite Smooth Like Strait through a fast half-mile. Smooth Like Strait quickened clear around the turn, but Count Again was making his own more powerful move from the back and ran right by him in mid-stretch, clearing away to win by a very comfortable two and a quarter lengths in a time of 1:32 and two-fifths.

Smooth Like Strait, compromised by the fast pace and finishing second-best for the fifth time in his last six starts, had three and a half lengths in hand of third-placed Masteroffoxhounds, another barnmate of the winner.

“I was told not to rush the horse,” said Ortiz. “The trainer told me to keep him in the clear, so I did, and when I hit him one time he just took off.”

This victory gives Count Again a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland in November, the Shoemaker being the first of the US-based ‘win-and-in’ races, and trainer Phil D’Amato is already working backwards from that objective.

“That was impressive,” he said. “He was sitting on a big race today. He deserves to be recognised as one of the top milers around, and this puts him in the right position for the Breeders’ Cup.

Count Again is three-for-four at Santa Anita in 2022 and was doubling his haul of G1 wins, having taken the Frank E Kilroe Mile in March. The gelding was unraced until the summer of his four-year-old campaign and is reaping the rewards of such a patient approach, being in the form of his life at the relatively elderly age of seven.

Gamely Stakes

Ocean on the right road

She hasn’t put a foot wrong since moving to the US from Britain, and Ocean Road made it two-for-two Stateside when going from the back to the front to land the Gamely, posting her first victory at stakes level.

The four-year-old had shown her best form in Britain over longer distances, but the 5-1 third-choice coped very ably with the cutback and appreciated the fast pace to run at. Canoodling set brisk fractions, but second-choice Going To Vegas was at her heels throughout and put her head in front at the top of the lane, but by then Umberto Rispoli had Ocean Road rolling down the centre of the track and she ran down Going To Vegas in the last few jumps, winning by a half-length in a time of 1:46 and three-fifths.

Going To Vegas held off odds-on favourite and barnmate Going Global by a length in the place and show positions, in a race reduced to six by two late scratches. Canoodling faded into fourth.

“I think there’s some more improvement in her and I can’t see why she wouldn’t keep going forward,” said trainer Brendan Walsh. “She had a bit of swagger about her today and produced a nice kick when Umberto asked her.”

At this time last year Ocean Road was finishing a well-beaten sixth in the G1 Oaks classic at Epsom over a mile and a half on soft ground, but she has been transformed by her move west. Her long-term target is the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, in which she ran sixth last year as the outsider of the whole field when still trained in Britain.

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