Cal Cup Saturday Showcases Best in Golden State


Although the attention of most racing fans will undoubtedly be focused on Gulfstream Park Saturday, there’s also great racing at Santa Anita, where the 27th annual Cal Cup/Sunshine Millions card is scheduled to take place.

With the richest California-bred (also North America’s richest racehorse), California Chrome, running clear across the country in the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup in the Sunshine State of Florida, California will still be celebrating runners bred in the Golden State in the 27th annual Cal Cup/Sunshine Millions Saturday at Santa Anita. A total of $1 million will be on the line in the five stakes offered on a talent-filled 10-race program.

The sunny skies familiar to racing fans in Arcadia will be back for the weekend and Saturday is expected to be an amazing day, with clear skies and afternoon highs in the lower 70s. It’ll be fast and firm conditions all day. Post time for the entire 10-race card has been set at 11:45 a.m. local time (Pacific) to accommodate the live telecast of the Pegasus World Cup, which will be shown live on NBC from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

The first Cal Cup race on the day is the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf, a 6 ½-furlong downhill turf event carded as the second race with a post time of 12:15 p.m. PT. Enola Gray, who many expected a big career from when she went undefeated in her first three starts (by open lengths each time) only to falter when facing open company, is the early morning-line favorite. Against state-breds, she’s a standout and figures to be again in here, especially considering she’s won her only race on the downhill. A short price is likely for Enola Gray, but so is a win with her best. Smoove It has been off for eight months and may need a race, despite her record of 16-4-3-2 on the downhill. At her best, she’s the one to beat, but she’s facing some fit fillies and hasn’t won in nearly two years despite the layoff. Seven others are expected to go postward in search of earning the winner’s share of the pot.

In the day’s fifth race, eight sophomore fillies will race a mile on the turf in the $200,000 Cal Cup Oaks. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer will tighten the girth on the undefeated Sircat Sally, who will race for the first time since winning the restricted Soviet Problem Stakes in mid-December. The daughter of Surf Cat, who was bred by her owner Joe Turner, has been working lights-out over the track and though she drew nearer the outside, she should have no trouble getting to her preferred spot on the lead. Princess Roi, under jockey Corey Nakatani will break from the far outside and will also likely be part of the early pace scenario. She also makes her first start as a 3-year-old after finishing second in the Blue Norther Stakes a month ago just before the New Year. She’s never been worse than second in her four starts and has found a nice home on the lawn. Richard Baltas trains the daughter of Roi Charmant for breeder GGG Stables and co-owner Sarno. Post time for the fifth race has been set at 1:49 p.m. PT.

Six are expected to break from the gate in the day’s sixth, the $150,000 Donald Valpredo Cal Cup Sprint. Recent Midnight Lute Stakes (GIII) winner Solid Wager will lead the field to the gate in the six-furlong dash for older horses. He’s a Santa Anita specialist, has won at the distance and hails from some solid connections in owner Barber, Barber and Stanford Stables, and trainer Peter Miller. A closer, expect him to be running late and mowing down the frontrunners down the lane. Acceptance is a multiple state-bred stakes winner and though has mostly raced on the turf for the past two years has two wins over the main track here. He’ll get the pace he likes and his numbers indicate he’s good enough to be a factor at the wire. Other notables in the sprint feature include Richard’s Boy, also from Peter Miller’s barn, and Jimmy Bouncer, who has won two of his tree starts over the Santa Anita main track.

Doug O'Neill

Trainer Doug O’Neill send out Ann Arbor Eddie in the $250,000 Cal Cup Derby at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.

In the seventh, multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Ashleyluvssugar is the runner to beat in the field of eight that will race the 1 1/8 miles in the $250,000 Cal Cup Turf Classic, presented by City National Bank. The Pete Eurton trainee has a habit of running well and either winning or hitting the board, with the lone exception being a respectable fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GIT). He’s consistent, likes the turf course and is a winner at the distance, but his inside post may prove tricky. His class, though, should be enough to get the job done. Grade 1 winner Ralis skipped the Pegasus World Cup to run here and, though he’s been struggling, his best may give him a shot. The Cal Cup Turf Classic is expected to leave the gate at 3:12 p.m. PT.

The feature on the 10-race Sunshine Millions/Cal Cup card is the ninth, the $250,000 Cal Cup Derby for 3-year-olds who will race 1 1/16 miles. Coils Gold drew the outside in his first race against winners after romping by 5 ½ length in his debut at Del Mar in mid-November. The Bob Baffert-trained son of Coil, who was bred and is owned by Pegram, Watson and Weitman, has been training well at his home base and, though he will break from the outside, shouldn’t have trouble getting up on or right behind the pace.

Ann Arbor Eddie was no match for graded company two back, but has proven a tough customer in state-bred company judging by his win in the King Glorious at Los Alamitos last out. He owns some impressive connections in owner/breeder Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O’Neill and has some tactical speed he may need here. The ninth-race feature has a post time scheduled for 4:15 p.m. PT.