Mischief Clem (right) gets the victory in the California Cup Derby over Pulmarack.

Mischief Clem (right) gets the victory in the California Cup Derby over Pulmarack.

Benoit Photo

Mischief Clem, 'Kitty Post Upsets in Cal Cup

Acceptance disappoints in California Cup Derby; Singing Kitty powers home in Oaks.

Mischief Clem produced an 11-1 upset in the $245,000 California Cup Derby at Santa Anita Park Jan. 24, prevailing by a head after dueling the length of the stretch with an unlucky Pulmarack (VIDEO).

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux for trainer Bob Hess Jr., Mischief Clem posted his first stakes victory for owner Griffin Thoroughbred Stables while completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.82 over a fast track.

A race earlier on the card Singing Kitty registered an 8-1 upset in the $200,000 Xpressbet California Cup Oaks on the turf. The two races comprised the 3-year-old offerings in the annual Cal Cup/Sunshine Millions series for state-breds, which this year was worth a total of $1 million in purses for five stakes events.

Always well regarded, Mischief Clem rebounded from a disappointing fourth in the King Glorious Stakes Dec. 14 when Hess said the bay colt by Papa Clem had problems in the paddock.

"A wonderful job by Kent," said Hess. "The horse has a ton of heart. I questioned his ability to go this far. I think he came through today, and I think more than anything, this is his home track. He loves it here.  We were able to train him here, school him here. I didn't do that last time, and it showed today."

He was cool and composed Saturday, though not given much of a chance against 1-2 favorite Acceptance in the field of seven. The three-length King Glorious winner came into the Cal Cup 3-for-3 in his career with a total margin of victory of 17 1/2 lengths.

Toting top weight of 124 pounds, Acceptance bounced to the front along the inside as Elvis Trujillo slowed the pace. Mischief Clem settled nicely half a length back on the outside of Acceptance with second choice Tough Sunday tugging hard in behind them. Acceptance clipped off early fractions of :23.77 and :48 flat before Tough Sunday shot through along the inside to challenge with half a mile to run. That bid didn't last long, however, as Acceptance re-established control and Tough Sunday dropped back by the time they completed six furlongs in 1:12.72.

Leaving the quarter pole, however, Acceptance was suddenly under heavy pressure from the advancing Pulmarack and Mischief Clem. Those two went on with it at the head of the lane as Acceptance gave way. Pulmarack, under Draden Van Dyke, forged a half-length advantage on the outside of Mischief Clem in the drive, but the latter colt battled back under left-handed urging from Desormeaux to put his head in front approaching the wire. Mischief Clem prevailed in a terrific finish.

"We've always been real high on him," said Desormeaux.  "In a nut shell, today he was finally able to put everything together and I was able to ride him off my fingertips...He was the consummate professional and he got a picture taken."

Mischief Clem paid $25.60, $9.60, and $13.40 for his third lifetime win in six starts, boosting his career earnings to $266,380. Pulmarack, who was also second in the King Glorious for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, returned $7.40 and $10.80, completing a $154.40 exacta. It was 5 3/4 lengths back to third-place Kluszewski, who paid $14.80 to show.

Acceptance held fourth, followed by Neveradoubt, Chanito, and Tough Sunday. Avanti Bello scratched.

Bred by SLU Inc. out of the Bold Badgett mare Glitteringmischief, Mischief Clem was purchased for $22,000 by Craig and Lorie Griffin out of the Harris Farm consignment at the 2013 Barretts January mixed sale.

In the Cal Cup Oaks, Singing Kitty put in a powerful stretch run under Aaron Gryder at odds of 15-2 to win by one length over 9-5 choice Heat the Rocks. She completed the one-mile journey on firm turf in 1:35.70 (VIDEO).

Matthew Chew trains the winner for owners Chris Aulds, Peter Jeong, and Brandon Hillman, who claimed Singing Kitty for $32,000 from her breeder Tommy Town Thoroughbreds at Los Alamitos Dec. 11. In her only start for her new connections the daughter of Ministers Wildcat out of the Unbridled's Song mare Natural Singer R N ran seventh against open company in the listed Blue Norther Stakes while making her turf debut Jan. 1 at Santa Anita.

"She was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who suggested that I take a look at her," said Chew after winning his first race of the Santa Anita meet. "I brought it up to the owners and we all agreed to take a shot. We threw her into the Blue Norther to see how she would handle the turf and the distance and we felt like off that race, into today would be a drop in class...She has adapted to the turf well. I've breezed her over it and she seems to love it."

Singing Kitty stalked along the inside from fifth as outsiders Swiss Skimmer and Tribal Express made the pace a solid one, clipping off fractions of :22.57, :46.52, and 1:11.37. Given her queue while tipping out four wide leaving the final turn, Singing Kitty surged to the front near the furlong marker over Heat the Rocks, who had taken the lead in the drive. She prevailed gamely under left-handed urging from Gryder.

Heat the Rocks finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over her Hollendorfer-trained stablemate, Light One, ridden by Rafael Bejarano. Sheer Pleasure, Patsy G and Me, Silver Starlight, Swiss Skimmer, and Tribal Express completed the order.

Singing Kitty picked up $110,000 for her first stakes win and third victory overall from seven starts. She has banked $175,438. The winner paid $17.40, $6, and $3.40 while keying a $49.80 exacta. Heat the Rocks returned $3.60 and $2.60. Light One was $2.40 to show.