By Emily Shields
Four stakes races for California-breds highlight the Saturday card at Santa Anita for the first half of their annual California Cup celebration. The second half, containing the California Cup Derby and Oaks, takes place February 18.
Race 3 is the $100,000 California Cup Turf Sprint, featuring seven runners sprinting 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course. #1 Our Silver Oak (5-2) has placed in two stakes but seeks his first black type win. #4 Irish Heatwave (7-2) is coming off two straight wins, including one over this trip on New Year’s Day. The horse who missed by a nose that day is #5 Listing (4-1), who is also in this field for trainer Ben Cecil.
Race 4 is the $150,000 California Cup Sprint at six furlongs on the dirt. Several familiar faces take up the mantle here; #1 Edwards Going Left (2-1) won this race last year by six lengths. He hasn’t won since, but tried grade 1 company three times in 2018, never running worse than fourth. #4 Richard’s Boy stays on dirt after making the switch following 10 turf tries in 11 starts. The Peter Miller-trainee is closing in on $1 million in earnings. #5 Heck Yeah (3-1) won the California Cup Turf Sprint last year, but won the Echo Eddie on the dirt here last April. He has not run since.
Race 9 is the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, a $150,000 race down the hill over 6 ½ furlongs for older fillies and mares. Eight of them will go to the gate, with #6 S Y Sky (9-5) a likely choice. She won her only start over this trip and was a multiple stakes winner in 2017. She has never been worse than third.
The day culminates in the $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic, a 1 1/8 mile race on the grass featuring defending champion Rye. #3 Rye is 5-1 morning line and will be making his second start off a six-month layoff; he was fourth against allowance company in his return. Eight for 20 lifetime and three for five over the distance, Rye will be piloted by Kent Desormeaux, who has aboard for the Turf Classic victory last year.
The toughest challenger will be #9 Ashleyluvssugar (3-1), a remarkable eight-year-old veteran who has earned $1.3 million He is dropping down in class after three straight grade 2-starts, but hasn’t won since May, 2017. A front-running dynamo, Ashleyluvssugar has never been worse than second at the distance and won this race in 2017.
Other contenders include #7 Camino Del Paraiso (5-1), who comes off a narrow loss in a grade 3 at Golden Gate Fields, and #5 Marckie’s Water (7-2), who won an allowance over this course two back in October.
First post is 11:30am on an 11-race program.
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