By Emily Shields
This coming Saturday at Santa Anita Park is the annual California Cup, a series of five races for horses bred or sired in the state. The races include the $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic for older horses on the grass, and the $200,000 California Cup Derby and Oaks.
The Unusual Heat Turf Classic will have The Hunted, a stakes winner here last spring who also won an allowance event at Del Mar in November. Ashleyluvssugar, who won the race in 2017, could be making the final start of his career here. Irish Heatwave is also expected.
The California Cup Derby was won in 2014 by a horse named California Chrome, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Hollywood Derby that season. Last year expensive purchase Galilean won and immediately went on the Kentucky Derby trail, finishing third in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Top three-year-olds such as Bettor Trip Nick, Fast Enough, and Summer Fire will vie to do similar; the race is 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.
Over a mile on the grass is the California Cup Oaks for sophomore fillies. Almost a Factor, Been Studying Her, Cholula Lips, and Homehome are amongst the horses expected for the race. It does not generally have Kentucky Oaks aspirations since it is on the grass, but California has a stellar program for three-year-old turf fillies, both for state-breds and against open company.
The $150,000 California Cup Sprint for older horses has drawn Baja Sur, who has won five of six starts. Although he is Washington-bred, he is by California stallion Smiling Tiger and thus qualifies. His lone loss came at Fresno last year, but he won the Oakland Stakes at Golden Gate after being unbeaten at Emerald Downs. Heck Yeah, a California Cup Derby winner from 2018, is also expected back off a 10-month layoff.
The $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint rounds out the card. Top class fillies Apache Princess and Just Grazed Me are expected for the 5 ½ furlong turf race.
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