Best Beyer: Country Grammer

• The week’s highest Beyer speed figure in North America

Horse Racing Country Grammer and Royal Ship
Country Grammer (Flavien Prat, far side) beat Royal Ship to win the Hollywood Gold Cup. Photo: Benoit

106 Country Grammer

Santa Anita (May 31): Hollywood Gold Cup G1 $300,000 1m2f, dirt, 3yo+
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Owner: WinStar Farm
Pedigree: 4 bc Tonalist – Arabian Song (Forestry)
Time: 2m02.23s

Quite a rivalry is developing on the west coast between Country Grammer and Royal Ship. Having fought out the finish to the G2 Californian six weeks earlier, the pair once again duelled down the Santa Anita stretch in the Hollywood Gold Cup on Monday’s Memorial Day card.

The tables were turned this time, however, as Country Grammer edged out his rival by a head in a courageous effort. At their previous meeting, Royal Ship had got the better of things by a neck.

Country Grammer was ultra-game here, stalking the pace before taking the lead three furlongs out. Royal Ship got his head in front but the winner fought back on the inside to provide Baffert with a record-equalling eighth win in what used to be the signature event at now-defunct Hollywood Park.

Sent off 9-5 favourite, Country Grammer was having his second start for Bob Baffert since being bought by WinStar out of Chad Brown’s barn following his fifth place in last year’s Travers Stakes.

“Elliot Walden and WinStar bought him to bring to California because they figured a mile and a quarter was his distance,” said Baffert.

“His form on the dirt was really good last year. It looked like he was beat today, but he kicked it in. He ran a big race last time and just got beat. He was really ready to go today and I think the distance was the key. He got it done with a lot of class and determination.”

Country Grammer received a Beyer speed figure of 106 for his efforts, with Royal Ship (gave 2lb) a point below. The pair both got a 108 BSF for the Californian – topping the annual list at more than a mile alongside Knicks Go and Mystic Guide.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Bankit also hit a 105 BSF in the $200,000 Commentator on Monday’s card at Belmont devoted to New York-breds with six state-bred stakes worth a total of $900,000.

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