Tarabilla Farms’ Melatonin linched his second Grade 1 of the year on Saturday in the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita and earned an automatic starting spot in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5.
The 5-year-old Kodiak Kowboy gelding found himself in a stretch battle with Win the Space late in the 1 1/4-mile dirt test at Santa Anita Park, but he gamely put the 24-1 longshot away to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Melatonin’s first Grade 1 win of the season, and the first graded stakes score of his career, was a 4 1/4-length triumph in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 12. That was followed by another game effort — a second to Effinex — in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 16, his first start outside of California.
Under the guidance of Joe Talamo, Melatonin finished off the 1 1/4 miles in a swift 1:59.79 after tracking early leader Lieutenant Colonel through most of the trip. The quarter-mile fractions went in :23.83, :47.70, and 1:11.48 through three-quarters of a mile, while Melatonin loomed about a length off the lead, but the eventual winner put a head in front through a mile in 1:35.52 as the front-runner began to tire. Melatonin then held off the challenge from Win the Space to prevail.
“What impressed me the most about him today was when Win the Space came to him at the eighth pole, he just battled back,” Talamo said. “He gives you everything he’s got.”
The Gold Cup at Santa Anita is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series, which guarantees Melatonin a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite, the David Hofmans-trained runner paid $5.60 to win, $4 to place, and $3 to show and pushed his lifetime earnings past the $1 million plateau with the victory.
“The emotions were pretty high. I’m normally low-key, but today I was really nervous,” Hofmans said. “It was his big test today. I thought there were some quality horses in here that he had to beat in order to think about going on [to bigger things]. “The difference is that today, he validated himself. Any horse can beat any horse on any given day, but to do it again, and maybe even again, then you start thinking.”
Last year’s Gold Cup winner, Hard Aces, raced closer than normal in fourth early and nosed out Hoppertunity for third, three-quarters of a length behind Win the Space, who paid $24.80 to place and $9.40 to show. The 3-1 morning-line favorite, Hoppertunity closed from last in the eight-horse field but never threatened the top two runners.
Melatonin was bred in Kentucky by S. D. Brilie out of the Yankee Victor mare Yanquee Reign. He now has five wins, three seconds and three thirds from 13 starts with $1,218,552 in earnings.