ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Hard Aces charged up the rail to win the $500,000 Gold Cup by a nose over Hoppertunity on Saturday at Santa Anita under Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza.
Hard Aces ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.46 and paid $17.80, $8 and $4.20 at 7-1 odds in earning his first graded stakes victory.
Earlier in the day, Espinoza appeared in the winner's circle with Triple Crown champion American Pharoah and then denied Bob Baffert, who trains Hoppertunity and American Pharoah, the day's biggest prize in front of 21,528.
Hoppertunity returned $5.60 and $3.40 as the 5-2 second choice. Argentina-bred Catch a Flight was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.40 to show.
Hard Aces overhauled Catch a Flight approaching the sixteenth pole and was fully extended in holding off Hoppertunity, who was forced wide turning for home.
''I lost a little ground at the start from being bumped by Batti Man, he took me out of the race a little,'' said Espinoza, who was last in a field of 11 turning down the backside. ''I decided not to encourage him early and save ground. I thought my best shot was to save ground and get through on the inside and it worked out well.''
The victory, worth $300,000, increased Hard Aces' career earnings to $592,145, with six wins in 23 starts.
''Victor did a beautiful job with him,'' trainer John Sadler said. ''He's ridden him a few times and he's not an easy horse to ride. He's a very difficult horse to ride, so Victor's gone forward with him for two or three races.''
Sadler said Hard Aces would be pointed toward the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 22 at Del Mar, a race that is trying to attract American Pharoah to Del Mar.
The 76th annual Gold Cup was run at now closed Hollywood Park from 1938 to 2013.
Masochistic won the $300,000 Triple Bend Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths as the even-money favorite.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Masochistic ran seven furlongs in 1:20.25 and paid $4.20, $3.20 and $2.80.
Appealing Tale returned $9.60 and $7, while Wild Dude was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.60 to show.
Trained by Ron Ellis, Masochistic earned his first Grade 1 victory. The 5-year-old gelding earned $180,000 for the win, increasing his career money to $523,850, with six wins in eight starts.
''All I can say is `Awesome,''' Baze said. ''He was unbelievable. Last time when I rode him, he was a little more aggressive, almost too aggressive. His head has calmed down and he was very classy about everything today.''
In the $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes, Fanticola won by a neck to claim her first graded stakes victory.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Fanticola ran one mile on turf in 1:36.76 and paid $10.20, $4.20 and $3.40.
Ireland-bred Queen of the Sand returned $3.60 and $3 as the 2-1 favorite, while Stormy Lucy was another length back in third and paid $6 to show.
The Grade 2 victory, worth $120,000, increased Fanticola's career earnings to $468,300, with five wins in 17 starts.
Longshot Prize Exhibit rallied from last around the far turn to win the $100,000 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/4 lengths.
Ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, Prize Exhibit ran one mile on turf in 1:36.03 and paid $21.80, $9 and $6.20 at 9-1 odds.
Long Hot Summer returned $6.80 and $5, while Lutine Belle was another one length back in third and paid $6.40 to show.
Curlin's Fox, the heavy 4-5 favorite in the Grade 3 race, finished last in the field of nine.
The victory, worth $60,000, increased Prize Exhibit's career earnings to $212,050, with four wins in 14 starts. It was her second victory in five U.S. starts.