‘Resume For The Ages’: Shirreffs Confident In Smith, Espinoza Ahead Of Big Saturday

John Shirreffs is aiming for victory at Santa Anita on Saturday.

The former Marine is focused in a bid to capture the day’s two marquee events, the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby and the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup. In all, seven stakes offering more than $1.3 million in purse money will be presented at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

Honor A.P. will attempt to hand undefeated favorite Authentic his first loss in the Derby, a San Felipe rematch to be decided at a mile and an eighth, while Midcourt will bid to make amends for his third-place finish as the odds-on favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 7, when he faces five foes in the mile and a quarter Gold Cup.

Authentic appears to be the speed of the speed in the Santa Anita Derby and drew the outside post position in a field of seven, with Honor A.P. just inside him at six.

Honor A.P. finished second to Authentic in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at a mile and one-sixteenth on March 7, the last start for each. Honor A.P. was inside him in that race, too, breaking from post two while Authentic left from post four and led throughout.

Shirreffs was not alarmed about being inside Authentic, opting to leave matters in the capable hands of Mike Smith, who has ridden the ridgling in each of his three races.

As to the Gold Cup, “Midcourt will probably be attending the pace,” Shirreffs said of the five-year-old gelded son of 2007 champion sprinter Midnight Lute owned by C R K Stable, LLC.

Shirreffs has trained Midcourt for the last eight of his 10-race career, winning five, including the Grade III Native Diver and the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes.

He was wide in the Santa Anita Handicap but finished willingly after prompting the pace into deep stretch, beaten less than a length.

On Saturday, Shirreffs will have the unique experience of giving a leg up to racing’s only two active Triple Crown-winning jockeys, Mike Smith and Victor Espinoza.

Smith, 54, who rides Honor A.P., won the 2018 Triple Crown on Justify, while Espinoza, 48, who pilots Midcourt, swept the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes on American Pharoah in 2015.

“They’re two Hall of Fame riders and multiple (Kentucky) Derby winners,” Shirreffs said. “They have a resume for the ages.”

The Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, race eight: Friar’s Road, Geovanni Franco, 20-1; Rushie, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Shooters Shoot, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; Anneau d’Or, Victor Espinoza, 15-1; Azul Coast, Umberto Rispoli, 15-1; Honor A.P., Mike Smith, 9-5; and Authentic, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-5.

The Hollywood Gold Cup, which goes as race 10: Parsimony, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Midcourt, Victor Espinoza, 2-1; Higher Power, Flavien Prat, 8-5; Brown Storm, Abel Cedillo, 12-1; Improbable, Drayden Van Dyke, 2-1; and Tenfold, Mike Smith, 6-1.

The post ‘Resume For The Ages’: Shirreffs Confident In Smith, Espinoza Ahead Of Big Saturday appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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