March 4, 2024

Royal Ship, Country Grammer meet again in Hollywood Gold Cup

Royal Ship
Royal Ship and jockey Mike Smith (outside) outleg Country Grammer (inside) to win the Californian Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) – Race 8 (7:30 p.m. ET)

After an exciting stretch duel, Royal Ship edged Country Grammer by a neck in the April 17 Californian S. (G2), and the older males will renew their budding rivalry in Monday’s $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita.

Seven runners are set for the 1 1/4-mile event, one of three Grade 1 stakes on the nine-race Memorial Day program. The Shoemaker Mile (G1) and Gamely (G1) will be contested on turf.

A Brazilian Grade 1 winner on turf, Royal Ship made three of his first four U.S. starts on turf before earning his first stateside win in the Californian on the main track. The five-year-old gelding raced up close last time, tracking pacesetter Country Grammer before offering his best. Mike Smith retains the mount for Richard Mandella.

Winner of the Peter Pan S. (G3) last July, Country Grammer made only one more start before heading to the sidelines for the rest his three-year-old season. The Tonalist colt returned from an eight-month layoff in the Californian for new trainer Bob Baffert, displaying surprising speed from the break, and it will be interesting to see his early tactics with new rider Flavien Prat.

Grade 2 winner and Santa Anita H. (G1) runner-up Express Train is eligible to be forward from his outside post. Last seen finishing a close third as the favorite in the April 17 Oaklawn H. (G2), the four-year-old colt has registered triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings in his last three outings, and regular rider Juan Hernandez will be up for John Shirreffs.

Grade 2 victor Rushie will stretch out in distance after a nose second in the April 10 Oaklawn Mile S. Trevor McCarthy takes over on the gray four-year-old colt for Michael McCarthy.

Brown Storm, Heywoods Beach, and Two Thirty Five complete the field.