Enriched, a Grade II stakes winner on turf, will return to synthetic for the $150,000 California Cup Classic Presented by City National Bank, the feature race of California Cup XXI at Oak Tree/Hollywood Park Saturday.
Trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed Sunday that the 5-year-old half-brother to Lava Man will try to win the nine-furlong race on Cushion Track that twice eluded the retired superstar. Lava Man finished second in the 2004 Classic and sixth in 2007.
“He’s going to be competitive,” said O’Neill of the decision to run in the Classic instead of the $100,000 John C. Mabee Mile Presented by TVG, a race in which he was third in 2009. “He’s such a versatile horse. It looks like a good opportunity to get it done in the Classic.”
Enriched will be ridden by Joel Rosario as O’Neill shoots for a record third victory in the Classic. His other wins came with Sky Jack (2000) and Mr. Chairman (2008).
Other probable Classic starters include Low Gear Power (Joe Talamo), Soul Candy (Rafael Bejarano), Unusual Suspect (Patrick Valenzuela), Cayambe (Alonso Quinonez) and Mobilized (David Flores).
Soul Candy worked six furlongs in 1:14.20 Sunday, while Mobilized and Unusual Suspect each drilled five panels: the former in 1:02.40 and the latter in 1:02.80.
In other Cal Cup highlights:
Liberian Freighter, winner of the Oak Tree Mile, and Colgan’s Chip, who finished a nose behind, are expected to renew their rivalry in the Mile on turf. Martin Garcia has the call back on Liberian Freighter, while Brice Blanc will again ride Colgan’s Chip. Other probable starters include Bruce’s Dream (Joe Talamo), Earnednevergiven (Flores) and Jiggly (Patrick Valenzuela).
Three probables worked Sunday: Liberian Freighter, seven furlongs in 1:29; Bruce’s Dream, six furlongs in 1:13; and Earnednevergiven, five furlongs in 1:00.80.
Grade I stakes winner Cost of Freedom worked five furlongs in 1:00 and will be ridden for the first time by Joe Talamo in the $100,000 Sprint at six furlongs. Challengers include Goggles McCoy (Russell Baze) and Daylight Storm (Bejarano). Goggles McCoy worked five furlongs in 1:01.20.
Defending champion Lady Railrider will attempt to join Dream of Summer as the only repeat winner in the $100,000 CTT/TOC Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Frank Alvarado will ride the Northern California shipper for trainer Steve Specht. Other probable starters include Ultra Blend (Rosario) and Ruffled Feathers, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.20.
Multiple stakes winner U R All That I Am heads the lineup in the $100,000 Distaff for fillies and mares at six furlongs on turf under Rosario. Other likely starters include I Can Hear (Martin Garcia), Money Lover, Perfect Vintage, Ruination and Waveline.
Slammer Time worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 for the $75,000 Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles and will be ridden by Bejarano. Challengers include Gab Power (Rosario), Jailbird Jimmy (Valenzuela), Luckarack (Alvarado), Mr. Gennaro (Flores) and Woodmans Luck (Talamo).
California Nectar (Bejarano), Queenie Marini (Garcia), Arta B Tappin (Flores) and Warren’s Flyer (Martin Pedroza) are probable for the $75,000 Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
BLUE MAIDEN ON IMPROVEMENT CURVE FOR LAS PALMAS
Blue Maiden, an impressive allowance winner in her second United States start, has earned a return in the $150,000 Las Palmas Handicap, trainer Richard Mandella said Sunday. The Grade II test for fillies and mares will be run at one mile on grass on Oct. 31, closing day of the Oak Tree meet.
“She improved very nicely second time out and we hope she improves a little more again,” said Mandella of the 3-year-old English-bred filly who will be ridden back by Joel Rosario.
Blue Maiden recorded one first and four seconds in eight starts in Europe before joining the Mandella stable this summer.
One of Blue Maiden’s opponents is expected to be Distinctive, another English-bred 3-year-old filly who finished in front of her in the Group I 1000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket in May.
Distinctive, who finished ninth in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in her stateside bow in August, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 for trainer Paddy Gallagher. Distinctive will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.
Other probable starters include Burg Berg (Rafael Bejarano), Czechers (Patrick Valenzuela), Value Stream (David Flores) and Wynning Ride (Martin Garcia). Swingtime Stakes winner Burg Berg worked five furlongs in 59.60.
A Monday work is expected to clarify the status of Turning Top, runner-up in the Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes and a two-time stakes winner on this course.
AFGHANISTAN SOLDIERS ROOTING FOR ZENYATTA
Trainer John Shirreffs received a special memento this week for Zenyatta, who seeks her 20th victory without defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs November 6.
“It was a campaign medallion from a medic back from Afghanistan,” said Shirreffs. “He said a lot of the soldiers in his unit are Zenyatta fans and will be rooting for her.”
The 6-year-old mare drew another group of visitors to the Shirreffs stable for pictures after she jogged on the training track with exercise rider Steve Willard. She is scheduled to work Saturday before being shipped to Kentucky on November 2.
ALCINDOR AIMS HIGH FOR BAFFERT
Trainer Bob Baffert has understandably high goals for Alcindor, a 3-year-old colt who broke his maiden at first asking in a six-furlong race here Saturday.
“He was a really big horse and looked like he was going to be something special,” said Baffert Sunday, explaining both why the $1.15-million Keeneland September yearling purchase was named for basketball star Lew Alcindor (who after college changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and why he waited this long for his first start.
“He showed a lot of grit to win,” said Baffert. “I thought he would be on the lead, but I liked the way he sat behind horses and waited.”
Alcindor, by Unbridled’s Song out of the Storm Cat mare Zing, is owned by Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable.
FINISH LINES: Owner-trainer-breeder Myung Kwon Cho said that he is still debating between the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and the Hollywood Prevue Stakes Nov. 20 for unbeaten Premier Pegasus, winner of the $59,800 Jack Goodman Stakes for 2-year-olds Saturday. By Fusaichi Pegasus out of Squall Linda, Premier Pegasus is a half-brother to Cho’s 2008 Norfolk Stakes winner Street Hero…Agent Richie Silverstein said he was glad to have veteran rider Martin Pedroza back in action this weekend after taking some time off since the end of the Fairplex Park meet. “He had two small herniated discs that were bothering him,” said Silverstein. “With ice, rest and time, he’s ready to go again.”…Several Breeders’ Cup candidates worked Sunday: Blind Luck, six furlongs in 1:12.20 for the Ladies Classic; and Indian Gracey, six furlongs in 1:12.40 for the Juvenile Fillies, both for Jerry Hollendorfer; Crown of Thorns, seven furlongs in a bullet 1:24.20 for the Dirt Mile; and Champ Pegasus, seven furlongs in 1:26.80 for the Turf, both for Richard Mandella; and Temple City, six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.80 for the Dirt Mile. On the turf, Éclair de Lune worked one mile in 1:39.08 for the Filly & Mare Turf.