Robert Baedeker, Michael Pageler, and Michael Sigband's Heck Yeah continued to show his versatility and kept his undefeated record intact with a frontrunning score in the $200,000 California Cup Derby Feb. 19 at Santa Anita Park.
Under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the first time, as regular rider Drayden Van Dyke shipped out to Arkansas to ride the Southwest Stakes (G3) card at Oaklawn Park, the 3-year-old Acclamation colt dueled early with Intimidate, opened up a clear lead in the backstretch, and held off a late run from Violent Ridge in the stretch to win the 1 1/16-mile test by 1 1/4 lengths.
The Bob Baffert-trained Heck Yeah—who broke his maiden sprinting on dirt at Los Alamitos Race Course and won his first stakes sprinting down the Santa Anita hillside turf course in the California Cup Turf Sprint Jan. 28—set fractions of :23.03, :47.01, and 1:12.52 through six furlongs with a 2 1/2-length lead.
In his first race around two turns, it appeared as if the extra distance was taking a toll on the dark bay, but Violent Ridge was the only horse making a run behind. Heck Yeah's three-length lead shrunk in the final furlong, but he found enough and finished off the distance in 1:46.60.
"Down the backstretch I felt like I was in the Olympics (with the headwind)," Smith said of a windy day at Santa Anita. "I was trying to be as aerodynamic as possible. It was really strong and it took a toll on all of them in there. We had enough to hold them off though."
Continental Divide closed from 10th to complete the trifecta, and was followed by Fire When Ready, Campaigner, Black Site, Hardboot, Faversham, Intimidate, Kaleidoscope Kid, and Lucky Romano to complete the order of finish.
Bred by Pageler, out of the Maria's Mon mare Lutess, Heck Yeah now has $194,000 in earnings from his three starts.
"I'm really proud of this horse," Baffert said. "Naturally I think he's a better turf horse, but he gutted it out today. He showed his class when he broke his maiden at Los Al. He's quick, he's got stamina, he's gutsy, and he has a lot of heart."
When asked if the Cal-bred would try open company on the Triple Crown trail next, Pageler left his options open.
"It's up to Bob, but I wouldn't be opposed to taking a shot at one of those points races," the owner/breeder said.
Under jockey Corey Nakatani for the first time, Pulpit Rider turned the tables on One Fast Broad, who defeated the Lucky Pulpit filly twice in stakes prior to the Cal Cup Oaks, but those starts were on dirt.
Last of seven early, the Mike Puype-trained filly got to the far outside in the stretch of the one-mile test and blew by the field to win by 2 1/2 lengths. One Fast Broad finished second, a half-length ahead of X S Gold.
"Corey sure waited today, but he did good," Puype said. "Big turn of foot out of her today—wow. She's more than a Cal-bred. She's just getting there mentally."