Wednesday, September 30, 2009


ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 30, 2009) – Nick Alexander’s roan homebred Grazen has been established as the even-money favorite to become the fourth 3-year-old to capture Oak Tree’s $200,000 California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank on Saturday when facing five rivals in the mile-and-one-eighth event that highlights the nine races for Cal-breds that comprise the 20th Cal Cup at Santa Anita.

This year’s popular Cal Cup extravaganza has been advanced to the first Saturday of Oak Tree’s 41st season in part to allow entrants the possibility of competing in the two-day Breeders’ Cup, to be staged Nov. 6 and 7, and the first time the World Championships have been held at the same venue for two consecutive years.

If Grazen runs to his notices on Saturday, Alexander said consideration will be given to the Grade I, $1-million Dirt Mile on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. The son of Benchmark’s credentials have been exceptional this year.

Following a troubled debut in September of last year, the Mike Mitchell-trainee has won 4 of 5 starts in 2009 including Hollywood Park’s Grade III Affirmed Handicap. His only setback came in the subsequent Grade II Swaps in which he ran second to Misremembered, a victim in the Affirmed.

“It’s really neat to breed something special,” commented owner-breeder Alexander. “Up until now, we’d been known as the king of the $12,500 maiden claimers at Golden Gate.”

Garrett Gomez will ride the colt who has earned $245,400 and will break from post position No. 3 in the Cal Cup Classic.

The complete field for the Cal Cup Classic, with jockeys, weights and odds in post position order: Bold Chieftain, Russell Baze, 122, 5-2; Star Nicholas, Michael Baze, 119, 4-1; Grazen, Garrett Gomez, 117, 1-1; Lethal Heat, Alex Solis, 118, 7-2; Blackbriar, Brice Blanc, 112, 30-1; One Chin Again, Rafael Bejarano, 111, 30-1.

Bold Chieftain, the 5-2 second choice on Jon White’s morning line, is the most accomplished of the entrants with a 12-6-4 record in 30 career starts for earnings of $963.411. A victory or a second would promote the 6-year-old son of Chief Seattle, co-owned and trained by William J. Morey Jr., to millionaire status. He is the 122-pound high weight.

Bold Chieftain was an upset winner of the 2007 Cal Cup Classic at odds of 5-1 when defeating Celtic Dreamin by one-half length. He ran second to Swift Winds last year as the 4-5 favorite in the Cal Cup Mile Handicap. He broke out of a nine-race losing streak in his last start on Sept.7 when a five-length winner of the Governors Handicap at Sacramento.

Lethal Heat, co-owned and trained by Barry Abrams, will attempt to become the first filly or mare to gain victory in the Classic. Romance Is Diane, trained by Mitchell, came the closest when a head loser to Mr. Chairman as the 8-5 favorite last year.

The 4-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat was competitive against open company when third, beaten two lengths, in the Grade II Del Mar Mile Handicap this summer after missing by three-quarters of a length to victorious superstar Zenyatta when third in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch for fillies and mares.

Alex Solis has the riding engagement on Lethal Heat, who has posted a 6-1-5 record in 14 starts while earning $555,988. She is listed at 7-2 on the morning line.

Unusual Suspect, another progeny of the prolific sire Unusual Heat, is the 120-pound high weight among a cast of nine turf runners set for the $125,000 John C. Mabee Mile, second richest of the Cal Cup races.

Trained and co-owned by Abrams, the 5-year-old Unusual Suspect has raced 40 times with an 8-4-4 mark and earnings of $736,100. Unusual Suspect won the 2007 Cal Cup Mile at odds of 12-1 before finishing fifth to Swift Winds last year.

Moore Racing’s Dewey’s Special will be seeking his fourth straight win in an attempt to remain perfect this year for trainer Ron Ellis and jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. The 4-year-old bay gelding most recently took Del Mar’s $100,000 Cal Dreamin Handicap on July 26. The son of Skimming has earned $223,280 from a 4-2-1 record in 10 starts.

The complete field for the John C. Mabee Cal Cup Mile, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Skimmetry, Bejarano, 116; Bert’s Law, Mike Smith, 115; Enriched, Joel Rosario, 116; Suit Yourself, Corey Nakatani, 115; Warren’s Tony R., Blanc, 111; Unusual Suspect, Alonso Quinonez, 120; Premiere Flyer, Christian Santiago Reyes, 110; Dewey’s Special, Jose Valdivia Jr., 118, and The Usual Q.T., Gomez, 111.

The California Cup Classic goes as the sixth race on a 10-race program that gets underway at 12 noon. It includes five races worth $100,000 each: the CTT/TOC Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, the Robert H. Walter Juvenile Fillies at seven furlongs, the John Deere Distaff for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs on turf, the Donald Valpredo Sprint at six furlongs, and the Bob Benoit Juvenile at seven furlongs.

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