Del Mar Mile Enriched heads the eight-horse field for the California Cup Classic.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Del Mar Mile Enriched heads the eight-horse field for the California Cup Classic.
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Enriched Takes Shot at Cal Cup Classic

Doug O'Neill trainee attempts to win race that eluded his star sibling Lava Man.

With its traditionally big fields and strong purses, the California Cup program has been eagerly anticipated each year by bettors and California horsemen. But reflecting the tough times in the state's Thoroughbred industry, this year's Oct. 30 event, to be held for the first time at Hollywood Park, is a much more modest presentation.

Seven stakes for California-bred horses worth a total of $700,000, headed by the $150,000 Classic, are on tap for the Oak Tree Racing Association's 21st annual Cal Cup. Just two years ago, the program totaled purses of more than $1.3 million. And while there were 309 nominations for this year's event, just 51 horses passed the entry box Oct. 27.

Enriched, winner of the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) on turf Aug. 28, heads the eight-horse field for the 1 1/8-mile Classic, presented this year by City National Bank. It is the ninth of 10 races on the program with a 5:00 p.m. PDT start time.

The 5-year-old half brother to Lava Man will try to do something his California superstar sibling twice failed to do. Lava Man finished second in the 2004 Classic and sixth in 2007.

Enriched has been much more accomplished on turf than on synthetic surfaces, earning six of his seven wins on grass. He has run well on Hollywood's Cushion Track, however, breaking his maiden in 2009 and running second on three other occasions.

“He’s going to be competitive,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who opted for the more lucrative spot over the $100,000 John C. Mabee Mile Presented by TVG, the turf race that precedes the Classic. “He’s such a versatile horse. It looks like a good opportunity to get it done in the Classic.”

O’Neill, shooting for a record third victory in the Classic, tabbed Joel Rosario, who rode the 5-year-old son of High Brite to victory in the Del Mar Mile. O'Neill's other Cal Cup Classic wins came with Sky Jack (2000) and Mr. Chairman (2008).

Owned by W.C. Racing, Westside, and Neil Haymes, Enriched has 17 in-the-money efforts from 22 lifetime starts and earnings of $512,656. The 123-pound high weight is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland Oct. 9.

Six-year-old Unusual Suspect, a veteran of 53 lifetime races with earnings of $855,171 for trainer Barry Abrams and the Abrams family, should also hit hard at this level in spite of having won just once in 21 starts over the past two years. The Unusual Heat horse worked five furlongs over the track in 1:02 4/5 Oct. 24 and will be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela.

Madera Thoroughbreds' homebred Soul Candy, who worked six panels in 1:14 2/5 on the same day for trainer Paddy Gallagher, is coming off a fifth-place effort in the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 29. He was only three lengths behind the well-regarded victor, Champ Pegasus , that day. The 4-year-old son of Birdonthewire won consecutive optional claiming allowance events on grass before that.

Lucky Charm Stable's Cayambe, front-running winner of the Ralph M. Hinds Handicap at 25-1 odds at Fairplex Sept. 26 for trainer Victor Garcia, also comes into the Cal Cup Classic in good form having captured three of six starts in 2010.

Low Gear Power, an optional claiming winner for trainer Mike Mitchell at Fairplex Sept. 27, Lodi Red, Mobilized, and My Boy Walsh complete the field.

Elsewhere on the Cal Cup card, Liberian Freighter, 22-1 upset winner of the Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT), and Colgan's Chip, who finished a nose behind, renew their rivalry in the six-horse Cal Cup Mile on turf. Martin Garcia has the call back on the 123-pound high weight Liberian Freighter, while Brice Blanc will again ride Colgan’s Chip, assigned 118. Other starters include Bruce's Dream (Joe Talamo) and Jiggly (Valenzuela).

Just five entered the $100,000 Donald Valpredo Cal Cup Sprint. Gary and Cecil Barber's grade I stakes winner Cost of Freedom, though he has struggled in recent starts, is the likely strong choice while carrying top weight of 123 pounds. He worked five furlongs in 1:00 Oct. 24 for trainer John Sadler and will be ridden for the first time by Talamo in the six-furlong test. Challengers include Goggles McCoy and My Summer Slew.

Defending champion Lady Railrider, trained by Steve Specht for owners/breeders Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams, will attempt to join Dream of Summer as the only repeat winner in the $100,000 CTT/TOC Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Frank Alvarado will ride the Northern California shipper for trainer Steve Specht. Main challengers include Ultra Blend, ridden by Rosario for Art Sherman, and Ruffled Feathers, from the Gallagher barn with Victor Espinoza aboard.

Multiple stakes winner U R All That I Am heads the lineup in the $100,000 John Deere Cal Cup Distaff for fillies and mares at six furlongs on turf under Rosario. Other starters include I Can Hear, Money Lover, Perfect Vintage, Ruination and La Nez.

Rounding out the program are the Robert H. Walter Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Bob Benoit Cal Cup Juvenile, both worth $75,000 and contested at 1 1/16 miles on the Cushion Track.

$150,000 California Cup Classic (Race 9, 5 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Unusual Suspect (CA), P A Valenzuela, 116, B Abrams
2. Enriched (CA), J Rosario, 123, D F O'Neill
3. Mobilized (CA), D R Flores, 116, G Mandella
4. My Boy Walsh (CA), M E Smith, 113, G Sherlock
5. Low Gear Power (CA), J Talamo, 118, M R Mitchell
6. Lodi Red (CA), M Garcia, 113, S McCarthy
7. Cayambe (CA), A Quinonez, 120, V L Garcia
8. Soul Candy (CA), R Bejarano, 118, P Gallagher