Country Grammer and Royal Ship (BRZ) staged a terrific stretch-long duel in the $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) on Memorial Day at Santa Anita Park, with Country Grammer battling back to prevail by a head after giving up the lead in mid-stretch.
The win was the second straight Gold Cup victory for WinStar Farm and trainer Bob Baffert, who took last year's running with Improbable, who now stands at stud at WinStar and was co-owned with China Horse Club and SF Racing.
Four-year-old Country Grammer was making his second start for Baffert after campaigning on the east coast over the previous two years. The Gold Cup was a rematch with Royal Ship, who had beaten him by just a neck in the April 17 Californian S. (G2).
Brown Storm (CHI) led the way early, with Country Grammer no more than a length behind at any time through the first six furlongs. Midway on the final turn Country Grammer and Royal Ship moved past Brown Storm to set the stage for the dramatic finish. Royal Ship, on the outside, seemed to have the momentum and was up by a half-length in mid-stretch, but Country Grammer, under Flavien Prat, battled back gamely to get to the wire first.
The final time was 2:02.23 for the 10 furlongs on a fast track.
Monday's victory upped Country Grammer's earnings to $377,320 and is his second graded stakes win, the first coming in last year's Peter Pan S. (G3).