When it comes to the California Cup Classic, Cheroot deserves an “E” for effort.
The 7-year-old Smokester horse trained by Darrell Vienna is scheduled to make his fourth start in California Cup XIX’s marquee event Sunday presented by the Oak Tree Racing Association. This time, Vienna and owner Charlotte Wrather of Los Alamos hope the speedy veteran’s performance will bring them to the winners’ circle.
Cheroot drew the No. 8 outside stall at Thursday’s California Cup draw breakfast at Clockers’ Corner and was listed at 6-1 in oddsmaker Jeff Tufts’ morning line for the 1 1/8-mile event.
Cheroot finished seventh in last year’s Classic after leading much of the way; was second by three-quarters of a length in 2006; and third by two lengths in 2005. He finished 10th by nearly 22 lengths in his last start, the restricted Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 1. He has a lifetime record of 7-3-8 from 32 starts, with earnings of $506,201.
“He worked really well here the other day,” said Vienna’s son and assistant, Cris, referring to a six-furlong drill Sunday in 1:12.40. “I thought he was breezing, but the clockers didn’t give it to him. Martin worked him and he was very happy with him.”
That would be Martin Pedroza, who has ridden Cheroot in 13 of his career starts, winning four. “It doesn’t look like there’s a ton of speed in there,” Cris said. “He’s been a real honest horse, pretty consistent, and a fun horse to have. He’s a fixture at our barn now.”
A fixture for a male horse at the age of seven is unusual. “Charlotte wants to stand him at her ranch in Los Alamos,” Vienna explained.
The field for the Classic: Add Heat, Alex Solis, 116, 7-2; South Coast, Joe Talamo, 114, 12-1; Top This and That, Garrett Gomez, 114, 6-1; Mr. Chairman, Michael Baze, 115, 3-1; Romance Is Diane, Rafael Bejarano, 115, 5-2; Top Emblem, Aaron Gryder, 113, 10-1; One Chin Again, Joel Rosario, 111, 15-1; and Cheroot, Pedroza, 115, 6-1.
In other Cal Cup news:
Trainer Barry Abrams, hoping to run nine horses—“maybe 10” on Cal Cup day, including Add Heat in the Classic, was optimistic about the chances of the son of Unusual Heat.
“He’s an honest horse,” Abrams said of Add Heat. “He’s there all the time. We’re just waiting for someone to make a mistake and hope he gets to the winners’ circle. This is a great program for California-breds and everything came together as far as timing goes. My horses right now are sharp and in good shape and they belong in these races. This is the place to run them.”
Abrams said the 18-year-old Unusual Heat stood at Old English Rancho for $20,000 in 2008, “and we haven’t decided (on a fee) for 2009. His book was full in 2008, and hopefully, it will be full in 2009.”
Dan Hendricks on Top This and That, 6-1: “We picked him out (claimed him for $40,000 on Jan. 20, 2005) as a second time starter and have had a lot of fun with him since. He’s knocked on the door in a lot of stakes, but ran second or third in a lot of them.” Hendricks is hoping Top This and That emulates past Classic champ Cozy Guy, who defeated an as yet unaccomplished Lava Man in the 2004 Classic.
Trainer Marty Jones on South Coast, 12-1: “The fact that Bold Chieftain didn’t enter was a consideration on why we entered, absolutely. He’s a very nice horse, but there are still some very tough horses in the race. Our horse is doing really well, so we decided to take a shot with him.”
Trainer Ron Sticka, Top Emblem, 10-1: “Aaron (Gryder) fits this horse really well. The horse runs for him and runs his race every time.”
BARBARO VET DR. DEAN RICHARDSON TO VISIT SANTA ANITA
Dr. Dean Richardson, head of surgery at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center, will be on hand this weekend. He will visit the Santa Anita stable area Saturday and will also visit Santa Anita’s Equine Hospital with Oak Tree Director and California State Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur.
Dr. Richardson was instrumental in the recovery attempt of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who suffered what ultimately proved to be a fatal injury in the Preakness.
On Sunday, Richardson will present the trophy to the winner of the Bob Benoit Cal Cup Juvenile.
LEGENDARY LAVA MAN TO LEAD CAL CUP CLASSIC POST PARADE
Lava Man, the only horse to sweep the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic in the same year—2006—will lead the post parade for the California Cup Classic on Sunday. His regular exercise rider, Tony Romero, will be aboard.
Lava Man raced in two California Cup races, finishing second in the 2004 Classic and sixth in the 2007 Classic.
Retired in July with 17 wins and earnings of $5,268,706, Lava Man is the most successful claim in racing history in terms of money earned following the claim. Jason Wood and the STD Racing Stable of Steve, Dave and Tracy Kenly took the California-bred son of Slew City Slew for $50,000 at Del Mar in 2004.
“He’s doing great,” said Lava Man’s former trainer, Doug O’Neill. “He’s just kicking back and enjoying time away from the barn.”
FREE CAL CUP WATCHES, $500,000 GUARANTEED PICK FOUR SUNDAY
The official Cal Cup wrist watch in both men’s and ladies’ styles will be free to all paid admissions while supplies last on Cal Cup day. There will be a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick Four beginning with race eight on the 11-race program. First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
CURLIN REMAINS ON COURSE FOR POSSIBLE BIG BROWN SHOWDOWN
Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin hasn’t missed a beat since arriving at Santa Anita late Sunday afternoon from New York for a possible showdown with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association on Oct. 25.
“This morning he stood in the gate at the three-quarter pole chute and he galloped a mile,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, who was traveling and due in California soon.
“The most important thing is, he looks just like he has every day that we’ve trained him,” Blasi continued. “He jogs off perfect and he’s getting over the ground beautiful, so that’s the most important thing.”
Curlin, the first North American-based Thoroughbred to surpass $10 million in earnings,
is scheduled to have his first official workout at a half-mile over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface on Monday.
“I talked to Steve this morning and just let him know how Curlin was traveling (over the course), that’s the main thing,” Blasi said. “Steve will be here for his work on Monday.” Blasi also said Curlin’s regular exercise rider, Carlos Rosas, would be aboard for the drill.
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Casino Drive, a candidate for the Classic, was in quarantine Thursday at Hollywood Park after arriving Wednesday following a 10-hour trip from Tokyo. “He’s due out around 1 p.m. tomorrow and then goes into isolation,” Hollywood Park Racing Secretary Martin Panza said.
Added Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Hidetoshi Yamamoto, owner of Casino Drive, a half-brother to 2007 Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches and 2006 Belmont winner Jazil: “He had a good trip. He seems to be fine and he’s an experienced traveler. We plan to get him on the track (at Hollywood) on Saturday.”
Eoin Harty was still undecided in which Breeders’ Cup race Well Armed would run. He is mulling the Classic or the Dirt Mile. “I could go either way,” the trainer said.
Oak Tree will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the fourth time and the first time under its two-day format, which features 14 races with total purses of $25.5 million. Oak Tree will also be the first-ever venue to host the Breeders’ Cup in consecutive years. It will present the Championships in 2009 on Nov. 6 and 7.
FINISH LINES: Trainer Jim Cassidy on Bahama Mama in Saturday’s Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap: “She’s genuinely tough. She won her last time out at Del Mar in an optional claiming race easily, but she needed a rest after a couple tough races.” La Tee returns to the turf in the Maddy for trainer Mark Glatt, who worked her five furlongs Monday in :59 3/5 on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface. “She runs well down the hill,” Glatt said. “That’s what makes her so versatile. Her feet have been problematic, but she seems to like it here. Timing made sense to try her on turf again.” . . . There were 110 horses entered for Saturday’s 10-race card, an average of 11 per race . . . Wake Up Maggie, scratched from the Lady’s Secret Handicap last Saturday, runs in the Grade I $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Saturday. Julien Leparoux rides for trainer Julio Canani . . . Hall of Fame riders Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day and Laffit Pincay Jr. will be at Belmont Park Saturday, as the Breeders’ Cup Tour makes the second stop on its multi-city tour. The trio will complete their journey at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 and 25, when Oak Tree hosts Breeders’ Cup 25 . . . There were 492 players alive in ShowVivor going into Thursday’s races, down from 604 . . . Bill Garr, a pioneer in horse racing radio and a world-class punster, wonders if when a rider gets astride Curlin and puts his foot in the stirrup, “Does it become a Curlin iron?”