Sky Jack and Hot Market, described by their trainers as "warriors," are set to do battle as the top choices in the $250,000 California Cup Classic, the marquee event Saturday as the Oak Tree Racing Association presents California Cup XIV.California Cup is a 10-race program exclusively for Cal breds worth $1.325 million in purse money.
Sky Jack, winner of the 2000 Cal Cup Classic, was installed the 2-1 favorite. Hot Market, who lost all chance in last year's Classic when he reared at the start, was made the 5-2 second choice in the field of 10 going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
Sky Jack and Hot Market are the speedsters in the Classic. Craig Lewis, trainer of Hot Market, envisions a pace duel between the two with the better horse emerging victorious. If so, Hot Market will have to do so off a 10-month layoff.
"I think it will be a pretty realistic pace, but he's trained forwardly and he's a warrior," Lewis said of the 5-year-old gelded son of Cee's Tizzy, owned by Harris Farms and Per Antonsen. "I decided to run in the Classic about a week ago. I've been able to get a lot more air into him (through his workouts) and I'm hopeful it will be enough.
"He's a good horse, but getting ready for a mile and an eighth is a lot tougher than three-quarters. The training regimen is just common sense but it's very demanding. It's asking a lot of a horse but he's very willing and he likes what he's doing. That makes it easier for me."
Hot Market has a 6-2-2 record from 17 starts with earnings of $348,600.
Sky Jack, a 7-year-old gelded son of Jaklin Klugman owned by Rene and Marjorie Lambert of Los Angeles who race as Ren-Mar Thoroughbreds, has 10 wins from 18 career starts with two seconds and two thirds. He has earned $1,115,127, mainly due to his win in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup last July 14.
Sky Jack is trained by Doug O'Neill, the record-setting leader in the Oak Tree standings this year.
$250,000 California Cup Classic, 3 & up bred in California, 1 1/8 miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt., ML Odds
1. Calkins Road, Julie Krone, 118, 8-1
2. Mr. Joe C, Jose Valdivia Jr., 112, 15-1
3. Tizawinner, Tony Farina, 113, 30-1
4. Commander's Flag, Alex Solis, 114, 12-1
5. Sky Jack, Russell Baze, 123, 2-1
6. Red Warrior, Ryan Fogelsonger, 112, 15-1
7. Tizbud, Victor Espinoza, 114, 15-1
8. Hot Market, Pat Valenzuela, 120, 5-2
9. Kedington, Tyler Baze, 113, 20-1
10. Grey Memo, Kent Desormeaux, 120, 7-2