Bob Baffert, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Cal Cup” after his early domination of California Cup races, expressed surprise Thursday at Hollywood Park when informed that he still led the trainer standings with nine wins, three more than anyone else. The 21st running of the Cal Cup is scheduled here Saturday.
“I haven’t won one in so long that I can’t believe someone hasn’t passed me,” said Baffert, who entered Queenie Marini in the $75,000 Robert H. Walter Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
“I was worried about her going that far, so in training up to the race, we were teaching her to rate,” recalled Baffert. “The gates opened and Julio Garcia put her on the lead, so all that work went out the window.”
“She was a nice filly,” said Baffert of Theresa’s Pleasure, who lasted around two turns to the relief of Baffert. “I won my first stakes in California with her at Del Mar.”
Baffert hopes that Queenie Marini can duplicate the performance of Theresa’s Pleasure. The gray/roan daughter of Marino Marini broke her maiden in her fourth and most recent start on October 9 in $40,000 claming company for Cal-bred maidens. She drew post four in a field of eight under Martin Garcia.
Corey Nakatani, who leads Cal Cup jockeys in wins with 17, hopes to add to that total with Pop’shands Are Hot in the $100,000 Mile and Joy Boy in the $75,000 Juvenile.
The 10-race card includes seven California-bred stakes for $700,000 in purses, headed by the $150,000 California Cup Classic Presented by City National Bank.
TURNING TOP TO CARRY 119 IN LAS PALMAS
Turning Top hopes to continue her love affair with the Hollywood Park turf course when she carries high weight of 119 pounds in the $150,000 Las Palmas Handicap Sunday, closing-day feature of the first Oak Tree/Hollywood Park meet.
The Grade II test is for fillies and mares at one mile on grass and serves as a prep for the $250,000 Grade I Matriarch at the same distance here on November 26.
Turning Top finished second in her most recent start here in the Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes, one length behind Breeders’ Cup-bound Hibaayeb.
During the summer, she strung together three straight victories on this course, including the Redondo Beach Stakes and Grade III Beverly Hills Handicap.
The Irish-bred 4-year-old filly began her career in England before joining the stable of Simon Callahan in California at the end of last year.
A daughter of Pivotal, Turning Top will again be ridden by Brice Blanc for owner Michael Tabor.
Blue Maiden, a 3-year-old filly in the Richard Mandella stable, breezed three furlongs in 36.60 seconds over Cushion Track Thursday for the Las Palmas.
JOCKEY, TRAINER RACES HEADING TO THE WIRE
Jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Joel Rosario, who have dominated the Southern California circuit the past three years, are heading for another photo finish at the Oak Tree meet with four days remaining at Hollywood Park.
Bejarano won three races Wednesday to build a 30-28 lead over Rosario. Bejarano edged Rosario last year, 31-30, to win the Oak Tree title and seeks the first three-peat since Laffit Pincay, Jr. from 2000-02. Rosario was one win better than Bejarano in the Del Mar race this summer.
In an equally tight trainer race, Doug O’Neill leads with 10 wins, one ahead of defending champion Bob Baffert and 2008 leader John Sadler. O’Neill previously led the meet in 2003 and 2006. Baffert was the titlist in 1997, ’98 and ’99.
TEX SUTTON CHARTERS TO FLY 24 HORSES TO BREEDERS’ CUP
Twenty-four horses stabled at Hollywood Park and pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup November 5 and 6 at Churchill Downs are scheduled to be flown to Kentucky on Tex Sutton charter flights Sunday and Tuesday.
The Sunday flight is expected to include Blind Luck for the Ladies Classic, Hibaayeb and Éclair de Lune for the Filly & Mare Turf, The Usual Q.T. for the Mile, Kinsale King and Supreme Summit for the Sprint, A.Z. Warrior, Indian Gracey and Izshelegal for the Juvenile Fillies, Romp in
the Marathon, Evening Jewel and Gabby’s Golden Gal in the Filly & Mare Sprint, Dakota Phone in the Dirt Mile, and Quick Enough and Waveline in the Turf Sprint.
Booked for Tuesday are Zenyatta and Lookin at Lucky for the Classic, Champ Pegasus for the Turf, Jaycito and J P’s Gusto for the Juvenile, Crown of Thorns and Tropic Storm for the Dirt Mile, Awesome Gem for the Marathon, and Unzip Me for the Turf Sprint.
Flights are scheduled to leave Ontario Airport at 5 a.m. Pacific time and arrive in Louisville at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time.
UNZIP ME, DAKOTA PHONE WORK FOR BREEDERS’ CUP
Unzip Me, winner of the Senator Ken Maddy Handicap, and Dakota Phone, third-place finisher in the Goodwood Stakes, worked at Hollywood Park Thursday for Breeders’ Cup engagements next week.
Unzip Me worked five furlongs on turf in 1:03.60 breezing under exercise rider Paddy Dalton to the satisfaction of trainer Mart Jones for the Turf Sprint. Dakota Phone drilled six furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:13.80 for the Dirt Mile for the Jerry Hollendorfer stable.
Hollendorfer also blew out U R All That I Am three furlongs on turf in 35.60 for the California Cup Distaff Saturday.
Fluke, winner of the Citation Handicap last year, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Humberto Ascanio.
ZENYATTA GALLOPS FOR CLASSIC
Zenyatta made one of her final journeys up Zenyatta Way, the 400-yard path along the south border of the track leading to her stable, after galloping 1 ½ miles on Cushion Track under regular exercise rider Steve Willard.
“She’s doing grand,” said Willard of the unbeaten 6-year-old mare, seeking her 20th victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 6.
Subject of a lengthy feature in this week’s Sports Illustrated, the star of the racing world will work Saturday before leaving for Kentucky Tuesday, according to trainer John Shirreffs.