Melatonin: The Forgotten Horse of the Breeders’ Cup Classic?



Veteran trainer David Hofmans of Los Angeles, California knows a thing or three about saddling surprise winners of Breeders’ Cup World Championship races. In 2003, his filly Adoration lit up the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) pari-mutuel board with a 40-1 front-running romp. Five years later, Hofmans sent out 36-1 Desert Code to win the inaugural edition of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. And, in 1996, his 19-1 starter Alphabet Soup outran 3-5 racing legend Cigar in a Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) shocker.

This year, Hofmans is heading into the $6 million Classic at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 5 with a hometown horse whose odds for the race also might venture into the double digits, despite his distinguished status as winner of the Breeders’ Cup host track’s two most elite Grade 1 races of the season.

Taking on both the more glamorous 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, unbeaten in six 2016 starts, which include March’s Dubai World Cup (G1) worth $10 million, and track record-setting Travers Stakes upstart Arrogate in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic will be Hofmans’ late-developing 5-year-old Melatonin. This gelding has won all four of his career starts to date on the main track in Arcadia, including this year’s prestigious Santa Anita Handicap (March 12) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (June 23) renewals.

The latter triumph represents Melatonin’s last racetrack appearance, due to the fact that he contracted a virus while being pointed towards the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar this summer, but Hofmans remains pleased with his EPM survivor’s progress since then. Sold for just $20,000 at Keeneland as a yearling, Melatonin boasts an impressive tab of nine solid workouts in the last two months.

So it is all systems go for this lightly-raced earner of $1,218,552 who is quick to show his affectionate nature to any visitors to his stall in Barn 76 at Santa Anita.

“He is just as intelligent as Alphabet Soup,” said Hofmans, who hopes to see his somewhat forgotten contender race to victory at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup with jockey Joe Talamo sporting the same Tarabilla Farms Inc. silks of stroke victim Susan Osborne that were carried home by Desert Code nine years ago.

Rudi Groothedde
Southern California turf writer Rudi Groothedde is a thoroughbred industry publisher and entrepreneur who served as the managing editor of “California Thoroughbred” magazine from 2000 through 2014, a tenure during which the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s flagship publication garnered many national awards for editorial content and design.

Rudi first attended the races in a stroller when accompanying his parents to the track in his native Zimbabwe. He learned handicapping skills from his father, who had bought his first house with racetrack winnings. Before relocating to the U.S. in the mid-1990s, Rudi co-founded a factoring company for thoroughbred trainers, managed a racing magazine and worked as a bloodstock consultant and insurance specialist in South Africa.

As a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, he is a frequent contributor to racing publications and is honored to serve as an Eclipse Awards voter. In addition to being a thoroughbred owner and enthusiast, he is a lifelong fan of soccer and motor sports, and currently coaches students from the ages of 3 to 70 as a member of the United States Professional Tennis Association.

Rudi’s all-time favorite racehorses are the South African champion and successful US sire Wolf Power, Zimbabwe-bred super filly Ipi Tombe, ill-fated superstar Dubai Millennium, the incomparable Frankel, legendry Nijinsky II and two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow.

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