INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The development of Parading from an allowance-class runner in 2007 and 2008 into a multiple graded stakes winner this year has taken trainer Shug McGaughey and the powerful Phipps Stable in a different direction than usual.
Parading's apparent affection for synthetic tracks has led to a start in Saturday's $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup and a rare West Coast appearance for the Phipps-McGaughey team.
Parading, 6, has won his last two starts -- the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on the Polytrack at Keeneland in April and the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes on the Pimlico turf in May. Those accomplishments make him the 119-pound topweight and 4-1 morning-line favorite in the Grade 1 Gold Cup, a wide-open race that has drawn a large field of 13.
Parading won his debut on a synthetic track in the Ben Ali, and the lure of a lucrative prize on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track synthetic surface appealed to McGaughey.
"I think it's worth a try," he said. "He likes the synthetic. It would be a great race to have a chance to win."
The Gold Cup is the eighth race on an 11-race program that includes the $250,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for female turf milers. The program begins at 1 p.m. Pacific and includes a guaranteed pick-six pool of $300,000.
The Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles will be new to Parading, but is not a concern for McGaughey. In the Ben Ali Stakes over 1 1/8 miles, Parading won by 7 1/2 lengths for his second stakes win.
"He'll run all day," McGaughey said. "The mile and a quarter won't bother him."
A winner of 7 of 17 starts and $405,046, Parading has been handy for jockey Kent Desormeaux in recent starts, proving capable of stalking the pace or racing from farther off the pace. Desormeaux has the mount Saturday.
McGaughey sent Parading to California earlier this month to give him a chance to acclimate to the surface. Parading has worked once at Hollywood Park, breezing five furlongs in 1:03.40 last Sunday.
Parading will be after his first Grade 1 win in the Gold Cup, which failed to draw any of the top-ranked runners in the handicap division.
The race includes defending champion Mast Track; Magnum, who won the San Antonio Handicap in February; and Big Booster, who was third in the 2007 Gold Cup. All three are mired in losing streaks.
The presence of the 4-year-old filly Life Is Sweet adds intrigue to the field. Trained by John Shirreffs for Pam and Marty Wygod, Life Is Sweet won three stakes for females at Santa Anita during the winter, but proved no match for stablemate Zenyatta in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap here in May.
The Gold Cup will be Life Is Sweet's first start against males and first start at 1 1/4 miles. Shirreffs is banking on Life Is Sweet's late kick to put her in contention. Life Is Sweet will attempt to be the first female to win the race since Princessnesian in 1968 and the fourth in history.
"If she runs like she did in the Santa Margarita, when she ran the last quarter in 23 and change, she'll be coming at the end," Shirreffs said.
Life Is Sweet and Parading are among eight 2009 stakes winners in the Gold Cup field, a group that includes Informed, who won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes here on June 13; the Kentucky stakes winner Bullsbay; the Northern California stakes winner Autism Awareness; and Rail Trip, who won his first five starts and was second in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap in May and the Californian.
Bullsbay won the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 3 and was fourth after a wide trip in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap there June 13.
Informed was a 14-1 outsider when he won his first stakes in the Californian, run over 1 1/8 miles. Claimed for $25,000 last summer, he could give trainer Doug O'Neill his fifth Gold Cup win. O'Neill knows that Informed must improve to win.
"If you can get him to the outside, he can run really well," O'Neill said. "We know that even with his win in the Californian, we'll be the fourth or fifth choice.
"His numbers are below that of most Grade 1 winners, but he's got the talent."