Soul Candy, winner of the California Cup Classic last year when it was held on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, is back to defend his title against seven rivals in the $175,000 event on Santa Anita Park's turf course Oct. 29.
The 2011 Cal Cup Classic presented by City National Bank headlines the shrinking series for state-bred or -sired horses that is now in its 22nd year. There are five Cal Cup stakes (down from seven in 2010) worth a combined total of $600,000 on this season's nine-race program restricted to state-breds.
The Oak Tree Racing Association previously co-sponsored Cal Cup with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association but is not involved this year because its former autumn dates are being conducted by Santa Anita.
Among the highlights on the card are a 14-horse field, including multiple graded winner Unzip Me, for the closing event of the day -- the $125,000 John Deere California Cup Distaff at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.
A 10-horse field for the $100,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint features the comeback of grade I winner Bob Black Jack. In his first start since winning the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) in February 2010, the 6-year-old will face fellow grade I winners Cost of Freedom and M One Rifle in a contentious six-furlong test that precedes the Cal Cup Distaff.
The card also features a pair of $100,000 events for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, the Robert H. Walter California Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Bob Benoit California Cup Juvenile for colts and geldings.
The Cal Cup Classic is moving to the turf for the first time in 2011.
The 1 1/8-mile Classic, the seventh race with a 4:07 p.m. PDT expected post time, finds Soul Candy trying to win for the first time since his 1 1/4-length victory in last year's race. While being close several times against top competition, he has lost seven straight.
The 5-year-old son of Birdonthewire, owned by E Z Eight Racing Stable and Madera Thoroughbreds and trained by Patrick Gallagher, is attempting to become the second repeat winner of the Classic, following Bold Chieftain, who accomplished the feat in 2007 and 2009.
David Flores takes over the mount on Soul Candy, who drew the far outside post. Soul Candy has raced on turf 11 times, winning three. His overall mark stands at 4-1-2 in 17 races with earnings of $314,300.
Old English Rancho homebred Norvsky, from the Donald Warren barn, won the California Dreamin' Stakes on Del Mar's turf course in July. In addition, the 5-year-old Vrosnky gelding has five second-place finishes in seven starts in 2011, all but one coming on grass. Rafael Bejarano rides the hard-knocking Norvsky, whose career turf mark is 3-5-2 in 11 races.
Lucky Primo has not been out since finishing third after setting the pace in the California Dreamin'. He won a one-mile stakes on the Hollywood Park turf prior to that for trainer Joshua Litt, who owns the 5-year-old Atticus gelding along with J B K Stables.
Tamarack Smarty, trained by Mike Puype for owners/breeders Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams, finished second in the California Dreamin' and is coming off a runner-up finish in optional claiming allowance race at Del Mar Aug. 28.
Mega Heat brings a three-race winning streak into his stakes debut for trainer Peter Eurton.
Cost of Freedom, now 8, won last year's Cal Cup Sprint in front-running style by 6 1/4 lengths but will be facing much stronger company this time. Bob Black Jack and M One Rifle are both past winners of the Santa Anita's Malibu Stakes (gr. I). Cost of Freedom is attempting to become the first repeat Cal Cup Sprint winner.
A son of Cee’s Tizzy bred by Harris Farms, Cost of Freedom was claimed for $50,000 by Gary and Cecil Barber in the summer of 2008. He went on to win that year’s Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) in September at Santa Anita.
The next year, he lost the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) by a head at Santa Anita when third to Dancing in Silks and Crown of Thorns . Showing little sign of slowing down, Cost of Freedom won three stakes in addition to the Cal Cup Sprint last year.
John Sadler, who trained Cost of Freedom for the Barbers, lost him for a $32,000 claiming tag at Del Mar in September. He was haltered by trainer Ed Moger Jr. out of the fourth-place finish and subsequently ran second in an allowance event at Fairplex Park. Owned now by Steve Moger, Cost of Freedom enters the Cal Cup Sprint with earnings of $910,013 from an overall record of 11-3-4 in 26 races.
Bob Black Jack has been working well in preparation for his return after a couple of long career interruptions due primarily to a suspensory ligament injury sustained during a workout. But after being off for 14 months following his victory in the 2008 Malibu, the son of Stormy Jack returned to take Santa Anita’s San Carlos by 2 1/4 lengths.
However, Bob Black Jack, trained by James Kasparoff for Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, has not raced since. Patrick Valenzuela will take over the controls on the speedster whose overall record is 5-2-1 in 11 starts for earnings of $684,925.
After winning four of his first eight starts including the 2009 Malibu by 2 1/2 lengths over Misremembered, M One Rifle has won but once in seven starts, capturing Hollywood Park’s Cool Frenchy Stakes in May. Chantal Sutherland will be aboard the 5-year-old One Man Army gelding trained and co-owned by Bruce Headley for Ed Bernstein and Bryan Greenspun.
M One Rifle, a 5-year-old gelding, has earnings of $491,002 from a lifetime mark of 5-2-5 in 15 starts.
Unzip Me, a solid choice in the Distaff while drawing post 12 with regular pilot Bejarano, is a four-time winner at the grade III level and a downhill course specialist. Trainer Marty Jones opted for Cal Cup Distaff over the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT), a race in which she finished third last year at Churchill Downs.
“She got black-type back there already,” said Jones, who trains the 5-year-old mare for co-breeders Harris Farms and Donald Valpredo, who own Unzip Me in a partnership that includes Per Antonsen.
Unzip Me, who has won five of eight starts on the hillside turf course, finished fourth, beaten by by one length, in the Senator Ken Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT) in her last try Sept. 30. She boasts a career mark of 12-4-3 in 22 races with earnings of $818,228.
Unzip Me’s opposition includes Samantha Clement and breeder Stephen Weissman’s Sugarinthemorning, a 3-year-old Candy Ride filly who won her only start over the course. Trained by Ron McAnally and regularly ridden by Valenzuela, Sugarinthemorning won Hollywood Park’s Manhattan Beach Stakes and the Fleet Treat at Del Mar this summer. The bay filly has captured five of 10 starts for earnings of $247,834.
Champions Gate and Rousing Sermon, who finished second and third, respectively, in Del Mar’s $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes Sept. 5, will be among the leading contenders among the nine youngsters in the Bob Benoit California Cup Juvenile.
Willa B Awesome, a recent winner of Fairplex Park’s Barretts Debutante Stakes, is the most advanced of the six aspirants entered in the $100,000 Robert H. Walter California Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
$175,000 California Cup Classic (Race 7, 4:07 p.m.), Cal-Bred or Sired, 3 & Up, 1 1/8 MIles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Tiz Argent (CA), A Quinonez, 117, J W Sadler
2. Norvsky (CA), R Bejarano, 124, D Warren
3. Mega Heat (CA), J Talamo, 121, P Eurton
4. Romeo Royale (CA), C Santiago Reyes, 119, G Stute
5. Holladay Road (CA), G K Gomez, 119, J C Canani
6. Tamarack Smarty (CA), J Rosario, 117, M Puype
7. Lucky Primo (CA), V Espinoza, 124, J M Litt
8. Soul Candy (CA), D R Flores, 117, P Gallagher