Saturday brings one of the showcase days of racing for the home team in California, the California Cup. Exclusively for California bred horses, this state-bred version of the Breeders' Cup runs for the 21st time, and one hopes that a future star can emerge from these races. With the Oak Tree being running at Hollywood Park, how will that affect the outcome of these races, or more importantly, the attendance? While the California Cup has lost some of it luster over the years, the move to Hollywood will probably hurt its attendance, which is a shame, as when else will they get to see so many of the home team's stars in one place, strutting their stuff, making connections that strengthen when they run year after year. Let's get into the action, with a review of the stakes races on the day
The card opens with the Cal Cup Sprint, going 6 furlongs on the main. This race has been won by some fast horses in the past, such as Answer Do, Big Jag and Dancing in Silks, who parlayed his win into a upset victory in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint. The field is lead by a horse who just lost out to Dancing in Silks in the BC Sprint, #1 Cost of Freedom. The connections decided to pass at a chance to avenge the loss last year and run today. He is speed, speed and more speed. H will look to avoid a speed duel with the uber-quick #3 Goggles McCoy, who is cutting back after a failed attempt to stretch his speed two turns at Del Mar. Whichever manages to survive to battle will have to hold off #4 My Summer Slew, who will be coming from off the pace.
The 4th race is the John Deere Cal Cup Distaff going 6 furlongs on the grass. This race was previously run down the hill when Oak Tree was held at Santa Anita, but with the switch to Hollywood Park, the dynamics of the race definitely change. The lukewarm favorite is #8 La Nez. She is the class of the field, being multiple graded stakes placed, and winning the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies last time out. She is trying a turf sprint for the first time. While she is at her best sprinting and the race flow is suiting, one has to wonder if this is too short for her to get up in time. The pick is #6 U Turn Me Crazy. As the favorite, she sprints on the turf for the first time, and looks to be better suited for the distance. The quick turnaround does not bother me.
The 5th is the TOC/CTT Cal Cup Matron, going 1m & 1/16th on the main track. Previous winners are multiple graded stakes winners Romance is Diane, Somethinaboutlaura and Dream of Summer. Defending champ #7 Lady Railrider returns to defend her crown and become the 2nd two-time winner, after Dream of Summer pulled the double in 2004 & 2005. She looks tough to beat right back.
The 7th is the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies. This race has a rich recent history with such multiple graded stakes winners Romance is Diane, House of Fortune and Summer Wind Dancer. The favorite is #6 California Nectar, who won a maiden race smartly last time out. The one this blog feels will most appreciate the distance is #2 Excellent Point. This daughter of Point Given out of a Broad Brush mare broke her maiden going two turns on the bullring at Fairplex. While this is a big step up from the maiden claiming ranks, the distance should be up her alley.
The 8th is the John C. Mabee Cal Cup Mile presented by TVG going a Mile on the Grass. The top two finishers of the Oak Tree Mile, plus the 3rd place finisher of the Del Mar Mile, are all in the race. #6 Liberian Freighter held off #3 Colgan's Chip in the stretch of the Oak Tree Mile last out. Both will face #5 Bruce's Dream who ran third behind Enriched, who is in the Classic. This blog hopes that the "Freighter" takes port in the winner circle, as this blog has been a fan of his for his career.
The 9th and feature is the Cal Cup Classic. This race has featured some stakes winners in the past such as Best Pal, Sky Jack and Lava Man, who was denied the win in 2004 by Cozy Guy in a photo. The heavy favorite is #2 Enriched who is switching back to the main after being beaten in the Shadwell mile on turf at Keeneland. Lava Man's half-brother will try to do finish the job his brother couldn't do. A huge longshot worth a flyer in this blog's opinion is #6 Lodi Red. This son of Redattore is taking a big step up in class, but should appreciate the mile and an eighth more than most.
The 10th and final is the Bob Benoit Cal Cup Juvenile, which has in its past winners such as Cavonnier, Yougottawanna, Texcess and Sierra Sunset. This year's winner will carry the cross to bear to keep the streak alive of every third winner having stakes success in the future. The lukewarm favorite is #6 Slammer Time. This son of Grand Slam switches back to the main track after winning a one-mile turf event last out, breaking his maiden in the process. The one that caught this blog's eye is #5 Woodman's Luck. This son of Lucky Pulpit broke his maiden last time out stretching out to 6&1/2f. The stretchout two turns might be the key, as he is bred to get distance.
There is a rundown of stakes action on the California Cup XXI card. Can Enriched finish the job his brother started? Will Lady Railrider defend her crown? Will we see the first glimpse of a future star? This proves to be a interesting day of racing that maybe will shine the spotlight on the home team.