Ridden by Michael Baze and sent off as the 3-1 third choice, Mr. Chairman provided sire Unusual Heat with his third triumph of the day when overtaking Romance Is Diane to win by a head. He raced the distance in 1:47.93. Add Heat, another progeny of Unusual Heat, gained third in the field of eight, one length behind the filly.
The trip over Santa Anita’s new Pro-Ride surface was Mr. Chairman’s first over a synthetic racetrack after six previous starts on grass this year.
“Michael (Baze) had his horse right in the spot where you wanted to be,” said Mike Mitchell, the trainer of Romance Is Diane who will be auctioned off as a broodmare next month in Kentucky. “But I’m proud of my filly,” Mitchell said. “It was a good horse race. We took a shot.”
Purchased privately by Great Friends Stable in June as part of a dispersal of horses owned by the late Merv Griffin, Mr. Chairman, trained by Doug O’Neill, gave the partnership a third win in five starts that include a pair of seconds.
It seemed fitting that the Classic field was led to the post by Lava Man, racing’s most productive claim who was trained by O’Neill. “It doesn’t get more exciting than this,” said the trainer.
“Isn’t it amazing to have Lava Man here,” he continued, “and Mr. Chairman ran like Lava Man as far as the gutsiness down the lane was concerned. Of course, he’s not Lava Man, but this is very exciting. Lava Man never won the Cal Cup Classic, so Mr. Chairman can say he did something Lava Man never did.”
Mr. Chairman paid $8.40, $3.80 and $2.80. The return on Romance Is Diane was $3.20 and $2.40. Add Heat, ridden by Alex Solis, paid $2.60 to show.
After winning but once in five starts as a 2-year-old in 2006, Mr. Chairman hit was sidelines for 18 months before winning his comeback at Bay Meadows on turf last April. The 5-year-old gelding hasn’t been further than 1 ½ lengths away from the wire in any of his six starts this year.
Purchaser Great Friends Stable is comprised of more than 20 investors headed by San Diego sports talk show hosts Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith Jr., the latter a former San Diego Charger star linebacker.
The stable realized $150,000 for Mr. Chairman’s work on Sunday as the gelding’s earnings shot to $338,578 from an overall record of 5-2-3 in 12 career starts.
The day’s first major upset occurred in the $150,000 TOC/CTT Matron when 16-1 shot Famous Ruby overtook pace-setter Barbara’s Love in the closing strides to win the mile-and-one-sixteenth event in 1:43.40 while a struggling 2-5 favorite Bai and Bai ran last in the field of six.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Famous Ruby won by a neck while negotiating two turns for the first time in his seven-race career. It was another neck back to Stroppy in third. Bai and Bai, second to Romance Is Diane in last year’s Matron, finished just under two lengths behind the winner in a blanket finish.
It was only the fifth time in Bai and Bai’s 25-race history that she had finished out-of- the-money. The surprising turn-of-events resulted in some inflated show payoffs. Famous Ruby paid $35.80, $13, and $15.40 while Barbara’s Return, ridden by David Flores, returned $7.00 and $8.80. The show price on Stroppy, with Tyler Baze aboard, was $12.
A 3-year-old daughter of Western Fame, Famous Ruby is owned and trained by Jorge Alcala, a 28-year-old native of Guadalajara, Mexico, who has been training horses for four years. “This is the first horse I have ever run in a stakes race,” he said.
“I’m really happy,” added Alcala. “I knew she was a mile-and-a-sixteenth horse going into the race. She’s always come from behind in her previous races.” “I just wanted to wait as long as I could,” said Rosario. “I was able to take my time and we got lucky.”
The winning purse of $90,000 nearly tripled Famous Ruby’s previous earnings while raising her career total to $129,200 from three victories in seven starts.
Another filly racing around two turns for the first time, Saucey Evening ran off with the $125,000 Robert H. Walter Juvenile Fillies when rallying from tenth and last to draw away from pace-setter Ten Churros while clocked in 1:43.14 for 1 1/16 miles.
The 2-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, trained by Graham Motion for Augustin Stable, won by 2 ¾ lengths under Garrett Gomez after being bet down to 6-5 favoritism. Runner-up Ten Churros, with Clinton Potts in the saddle, crossed the wire 1 ½ lengths ahead of Spanish Ice with David Flores aboard.
Coming out of two stakes efforts including a seventh in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante after a victorious debut, Saucey Evening paid $4.60, $2.80 and $2.40. The prices on Ten Churros were $3.20 and $2.80 while the show return on Spanish Ice was $7.60.
“In her last race, I couldn’t get her to relax at all,” Gomez said of the winner’s effort in the Del Mar Debutante. “I wanted to try to get her off the bridle today. She’s coming around slowly. She’s actually got a couple more gears than she showed today. There’s a lot of room for improvement with this filly.”
Saucey Evening’s second victory from four starts netted $75,000 to boost her career earnings to $116,740.
The afternoon’s second stunner developed in the $175,000 John C. Mabee Mile when 11-1 shot Swift Winds stormed home to upset 4-5 choice Bold Chieftain, the 2007 Cal Cup Classic winner who this year began concentrating on turf events.
With Alonso Quinonez aboard, Swift Winds rallied from seventh and last to overtake the odds-on favorite, carrying Russell Baze, and score by one length in 1:33.84.
It was the third straight victory for Swift Winds since Victor Garcia assumed training duties following the retirement this summer of his father, Juan Garcia. Swift Winds had finished third in last year’s Cal Cup Mile.
“Wow, I’m very impressed,” said Quinonez after partnering the 5-year-old bay gelding for the first time. “Around the last turn, I was afraid those horses were getting away from me and I wouldn’t be able to catch them. I decided to just save ground and hug the rail. When I asked him, he just took off. It was amazing. I didn’t hit him. He just took off.”
Swift Winds paid $24.20, $6.60 and $4. Bold Chieftain, who had won four of his six previous races, paid $2.60 and $2.20 with regular rider Russell Baze up. Liberian Freighter, who finished third another length back while handled by Flores, returned $4.60.
Owned by Jack D. Burk, the winner lifted his record to 7-3-3 in 28 starts while his richest career purse, $105,000, hiked his earnings to $391,594.
In a speed-laden field of ten, mild 5-2 choice Tribesman sped to the front and carried his speed through some blistering splits to take the $150,000 Donald Valpredo Sprint by 1¼ lengths over Johnny Eves with a final time of 1:07.85 for six furlongs. Contested over the Pro-Ride surface, it was fasted Cal Cup Sprint on record.
Russell Baze wasted little time in getting the 4-year-old gelding to the lead and the pair whistled through fractions of 21.76, 44.36 and 55.81. Johnny Eves and jockey Flores made a run at the leader nearing the sixteenth pole but could not match strides in the end. Partywithlarryz, ridden by Tyler Baze, made up ground to gain the show, three-quarters of a length behind Johnny Eves.
“I knew we were going fast and those other guys were thinking we were gonna die up front,” said the winning jockey, “but I was thinking, ‘You guys are in trouble’ because even thought the fractions were very fast, he was by himself and doing it easy. He’s got a lot of speed and he carries it well. You can see from the final time he wasn’t slowing down much.”
Conditioned by Roger Hansen for Kjell Quale and based in Northern California, Tribesman’s win was his seventh in his last ten starts and his first in Southern California. His overall record became 8-1-2 in 15 starts with the winning pot of $90,000 pushing his career bankroll to $396,781.
Unusual Heat offspring ran one-two in the $150,000 John Deere Distaff at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course as 3-1 shot Lightmyfirebaby rallied strongly to nip 30-1 shot Christina’s Heat by one-half length in 1:12.58. It was 1 ½ lengths back to North Rodeo in third.
Rosario, winning his second race on the card, brought Lightmyfirebaby from tenth among 12 entrants to get up in the closing strides. It was the second victory on the day for standout California sire Unusual Heat and trainer Barry Abrams after Guts earlier had captured the $50,000 AM 570 KLAC Starter Handicap.
“Barry told me to be patient, don’t be in a hurry, and just wait,” Rosario said after the Distaff. “He said she needs to finish, and when you wait, she’ll finish the way she’s supposed to. It opened up for us at the quarter-pole, and she finished great.” Noted Abrams of Lightmyfirebaby, “She’s already won a couple times down this course, so I had confidence in her. Joel rode her once and finished second. I just told him, ‘Patience, patience.’”
The mutuels on Lightmyfirebaby were $8.20, $5 and $3.60 while the other Unusual Heat product, ridden by Michael Baze, paid $18.80 and $11.20. North Rodeo, with Flores in the saddle, paid $7.60 to show.
A 5-year-old mare who had won 3 of 8 previous starts over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, Lightmyfirebaby earned $90,000 for the Richard J. O’Neill Trust. Her record was boosted to 6-5-2 in 23 races as her earnings total reached $444,437.
Rosario achieved his third riding victory of the Cal Cup afternoon in the day’s final event when directing 6-1 shot Lucky Primo to a 1 ½-length win over Triumphant Flight in the $125,000 Bob Benoit Juvenile. The Atticus colt, trained by Marty Jones, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.36. “We always thought he wanted to go a route of ground,” said Jones.
Triumphant Flight, ridden by Espinoza, crossed the wire 1 ½ lengths ahead of Escalon, the 5-2 favorite with Bejarano in the boot. The winner paid $14.60, $7.60 and $4.40. Triumphant Flight paid $7 and $4.20. Escalon paid $3 to show.
It was the second win in four starts for the bay colt owned by J B K Stable and Jason Litt. Lucky Primo’s earnings reached $119,104 with the winning purse of $75,000.
Santa Anita will be dark on Monday and Tuesday before Oak Tree racing resumes on Wednesday with first post at 1 p.m.