Heatseeker, ranked as the third-best horse in the country behind Big Brown and 2007 horse of the year Curlin, will carry high weight of 123 pounds and start from post position No. 3 in the 69th running of the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park on Saturday.
In a 10-horse field that was set Wednesday, Heatseeker's main rival, Tiago, will carry 121 pounds and start from the No. 4 post.
Heatseeker, to no one's surprise, is the early 7-5 favorite. Tiago is an early 9-2 choice.
Tiago finished fourth as Heatseeker won the Santa Anita Handicap on March 1. Tiago then beat the Irish-bred by a head in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas on April 5, but Heatseeker was an impressive winner over Tiago in the Grade II Californian at Hollywood Park on May 31.
However, the 1 1/4 -mile classic figures as more than a two-horse race, because seven of the other horses in the field have won graded stakes races.
Go Between, who will carry 118 pounds from the No. 7 post, finished second, three-quarters of a length behind Heatseeker, in the Santa Anita Handicap. On April 20, Go Between was second in a Grade III at Keeneland in Kentucky.
Student Council, who drew the No. 6 post, is coming off a win in the Pimlico Special on May 16. Student Council, assigned 117 pounds and early odds of 7-2, won last year's Pacific Classic at Del Mar when trained by Vladimir Cerin. Steve Asmussen now trains the 6-year-old son of Kingmambo, who has made more than $1.3 million with eight wins in 27 starts.
Perfect Drift, who will start from the No. 2 post with 115 pounds, is the oldest horse in the field -- and the richest. The 9-year-old has made $4.7 million with 11 wins in 47 starts. Perfect Drift has run in 20 Grade I races but hasn't won one since the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs five years ago.
This will be just the second start for Perfect Drift under the care of trainer Richard Mantella, who won important stakes races with older horses The Tin Man and Sandpit.
Another horse in the field that will be drawing attention is McCann's Mojave, owned by Santa Anita publicity director Mike Willman.
McCann's Mojave has made more than $1.5 million with 12 wins in 34 starts. The 8-year-old son of Memo is coming off a 3 1/2 -length win in the Grade III Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate on May 26.
Missing from the field Saturday will be Lava Man, who pulled out last weekend. Lava Man would have been going for a record fourth consecutive Gold Cup win. But trainer Doug O'Neill didn't believe his horse was quite up to the task after finishing third in the Charles Whittingham Memorial on June 7 at Hollywood Park.
Lava Man is now scheduled to run in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 20.
All the evidence points to Heatseeker being the horse to beat in Saturday's Gold Cup.
He had a blazing 57.8-second, five-furlong workout Sunday and comes into the Gold Cup with seven wins in 17 starts and earnings of nearly $1.2 million.
"Unless Heatseeker is carrying an anchor, I don't know how we're going to catch him," John Shirreffs, Tiago's trainer, said the other day.
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Gold Cup field
Saturday at Hollywood Park. Purse: $750,000 -- 1 1/4 miles. 10th race, 4:43 p.m. approximate post time.
*--* (PP) Horse Trainer Jockey ML 1. Mast Track Robert Frankel Tyler Baze 20-1 2. Perfect Drift Richard Mandella Victor Espinoza 15-1 3. Heatseeker Jerry Hollendorfer Rafael Bejarano 7-5 4. Tiago John Shirreffs Mike Smith 9-2 5. Racketeer Barry Abrams Joel Rosario 15-1 6. Student Council Steve Asmussen Shaun Bridgmohan 6-1 7. Go Between Bill Mott Garrett Gomez 7-2 8. McCann's Mojave Steve Specht Frank Alvarado 20-1 9. Big Booster Mike Mitchell Corey Nakatani 15-1 10. Spice Route Patrick Gallagher Alex Solis 20-1 *--*