By Emily Shields
The annual California-bred extravaganza – the 2021 California Cup – will take place at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, January 16. There are five stakes races on a 10-race card exclusively for horses bred or born in the Golden State, with three of the races boasting purses of $200,000.
The $200,000 California Cup Derby drew nine runners. In 2014, this race produced Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) hero California Chrome. Mischievous Path is coming off an eight-length score sprinting at Golden Gate Fields for trainer Carla Gaines; he faces stakes winner Big Fish for David Hoffmans. That runner is switching back to dirt after five straight races on the turf over a mile. Graduation Stakes winner Positivity is also in the field.
The $200,000 Leigh Ann Howard California Cup Oaks over a mile will have Governor Goteven trying grass for the first time. The two-time stakes winner won three of her first five starts, and ran second last out going a mile on the main track at Los Alamitos. Walther Solis trains the daughter of Govenor Charlie. She faces three from the Gaines outfit, including Sensible Cat, who has won two in a row including the Soviet Problem Stakes.
The $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic Stakes honors the late, great Unusual Heat, who was California’s leading sire for many years. 11 runners will go to the post in the 1 1/8-mile turf event for older males, including Grade 2 winners Acclimate for Phil D’Amato and Marckie’s Water for trainer Tim Yakteen. Heck Yeah, who won the Cal Cup Derby in 2018, is back for trainer Steve Sherman; he has won six of 12 starts lifetime.
The $150,000 Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint features defending champion Fashionably Fast. He won six in a row before finishing second in the Triple Bend (G2) and sixth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, which sent him to the sidelines from August 1 until now. He faces the stakes winner Bettor Trip Nick, who was third in the Cal Cup Derby last year.
The $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint is named in memory of the dual-cost event that used to run between Santa Anita and sister track Gulfstream Park. It is the first stakes race of the day, going as Race 4. Leggs Galore has won three in a row since switching to the grass for D’Amato, all over five of five and a half furlongs. She faces the half-million earner Warren’s Showtime, who won a Cal Cup race last year, as well as the Richard’s Kid daughter Sheza Girly Girl.
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