Even-money morning-line favorite Grazen drew post position 3 for the $200,000 California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank at the draw breakfast Sept. 30. Held at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner, the breakfast kicked off California Cup celebrations, which will culminate in a day of races for California-breds Oct. 3. This is the 20th year for Cal Cup.
Three-year-old Grazen will take on five older horses in the 1 1/8-mile Classic. Santa Anita morning linemaker Jon White made Grazen the even-money favorite to beat 6-year-olds Bold Chieftain and Star Nicholas, 4-year-old males Blackbriar and One Chin Again, and the 4-year-old filly Lethal Heat.
“We’re very excited to be in the Classic for the first time,” said Nick Alexander, the owner and breeder of Grazen. “The horse is doing very well.”
Grazen won the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park and the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar over the summer. The gray/roan son of Benchmark —Hazen, by Rubiano, is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, but Alexander said that if he runs well in the Cal Cup, they might consider supplementing to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Mike Mitchell trains Grazen, who will be ridden in the Cal Cup by Garrett Gomez.
Grazen's only setback in five starts came in the subsequent Swaps Stakes (gr. II), in which he ran second to Misremembered, a horse he had beaten in the Affirmed. Grazen has earned $245,400
“It’s really neat to breed something special,” Alexander said. “Up until now, we’d been known as the king of the $12,500 maiden claimers at Golden Gate.”
Bold Chieftain, the 5-2 second choice, drew the rail. He won the Cal Cup Classic in 2007 and will try to become the first to win it twice. Bold Chieftain finished second in the 2008 California Cup Mile Handicap and most recently captured the Governor’s Handicap at Sacramento.
He is the most accomplished of the entrants with a 12-6-4 record in 30 career starts for earnings of $963.411. A victory or a second would promote the 6-year-old son of Chief Seattle, co-owned and trained by William J. Morey Jr., to millionaire status. He is the 122-pound high weight.
Trainer Barry Abrams said that he initially considered taking on Zenyatta in the Oct. 10 Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I) with 7-2 third choice Lethal Heat before deciding on the Classic.
“It was an audible,” said the trainer, who is hoping that Lethal Heat can become the first filly or mare to win the Cal Cup Classic. “It was a last-minute decision.”
Lethal Heat is a daughter of leading California sire Unusual Heat. The filly finished third to Zenyatta in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I) and placed in two other stakes at Del Mar.
Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr., trainer of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird, helped draw the $175,000 California Cup Mile. Abrams has another Unusual Heat offspring, Unusual Suspect, among the nine-horse Mile field. Unusual Suspect, the 120-pound high weight, won the 2007 Mile and finished fifth in it last year.
Trained and co-owned by Abrams, the 5-year-old Unusual Suspect has raced 40 times with an 8-4-4 mark and earnings of $736,100.
Woolley said that Mine That Bird was doing well after his first work over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface Sept. 29.
“He got over the ground good,” Woolley said. “It was just kind of a steady work. I maybe would have liked to have seen him finish a little more, but we wouldn’t want to overdo it on this new surface. He pulled up good and was bouncing this morning, putting on a little show for the TV cameras.”
Woolley said Mine That Bird will work again Oct. 5 or 6 in preparation for the Oct. 10 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) and the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
The California Cup Classic goes as the sixth race on a 10-race program that gets underway at noon. The day includes five races worth $100,000 each: the CTT/TOC Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, the Robert H. Walter Juvenile Fillies at seven furlongs, the John Deere Distaff for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, the Donald Valpredo Sprint at six furlongs, and the Bob Benoit Juvenile at seven furlongs.
$200,000 California Cup Classic Handicap (Race 6, 2:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Bold Chieftain (CA), R A Baze, 122, W J Morey, Jr.
2. Star Nicholas (CA), M C Baze, 119, P Eurton
3. Grazen (CA), G K Gomez, 117, M R Mitchell
4. Lethal Heat (CA), A O Solis, 118, B Abrams
5. Blackbriar (CA), B Blanc, 112, M Chew
6. One Chin Again (CA), R Bejarano, 111, D F O'Neill