While the majority of sports fans count down the days until training camp opens or college football kicks off in late August, the summertime event with the most drama on the line looked like it would be the running of the Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park on Saturday evening.
I know what most of you are thinking: “Dachille, no one cares about this…again!” Maybe so. Still, give me a paragraph or five to defend my choice.
Aside from the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup, only railbirds and those with broken remote controls land on a horse race in the summer. The lack of storyline for a run-of-the-mill stakes race usually only entices Pick 6 players and leaves the average sports fan saying things like “the one horse looked pretty good.”
This Gold Cup had a different feel to it.
There was intrigue.
We had a storyline.
Lava Man, winner of the Gold Cup for the last three years, sat on the precipice of history. No horse in the history of this grand race could claim four straight wins in as many years. Only Native Diver in the mid 1960’s could match the accomplishments of this majestic gelding. For those without a reference point of the Gold Cup, think of it as a Breeders’ Cup Classic race just for horses based in California. As Ron Burgundy would say, “it’s kind of a big deal.”
Thanks to a slight injury in the Charles Whittingham Stakes race and a short turnaround to the Gold Cup, the connections of Lava Man decided against running him in the Gold Cup. While anyone can understand why an owner wants to protect their investment and make sure the stud fee remains at a high price, it’s still a bummer to miss out on a chance to make history.
A day before they break from the gate in Hollywood, Heatseeker’s owner and trainer decided to pass on the Gold Cup as well. Suffering an ankle injury, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer thought it would be best to sit out the next best horse in the race and wait for a better spot down the road.
Now the 10th race at Hollywood on Saturday plays out like any other race at any other track this weekend. An amazing race for all morphed into two minutes that few care about.
Suddenly, the winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup looks like a bronze medal winner.