Norvsky, who never runs a bad race, turned in his best on Saturday
when bursting from fourth to first in the closing yards of Santa Anita’s
$175,000 California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank to give
Rafael Bejarano his fourth of five riding victories on the nine-race
afternoon devoted strictly to California-bred horses.
A 5-year-old gelding who had been out of the money but once in
15 previous starts, Norvsky delivered as the 3-2 favorite with his late
spurt that edged runner-up Lucky Primo by a neck. Raced for the first
time on turf, the mile-and-one-eighth event was timed in 1:46.97.
Not only did Norvsky swoop past Lucky Primo, but third-place
Holladay Road and Mega Heat as well in the final 70 yards to achieve his
most lucrative career victory for the partnership of Bud and Judy
Johnston and Robert Riggio. Lucky Primo nosed out Holladay Road for the
place with Mega Heat finishing another half-length back in the field of
“I was a little worried in the stretch because I had to move
early at the three-eighths pole to get him close,” said Bejarano, “then I
needed to make another move at the top of the stretch. My horse had
enough to keep going, and he showed me a big kick.”
Trained by Don Warren, the offspring of Vronsky bred at the
Johnstons’ Old English Rancho provided a measure of solace after stellar
stablemate Acclamation had been forced out of next weekend’s Breeders’
Cup Turf with a leg ailment following five straight graded stakes wins.
“It was great to have the ‘B’ team win for us,” said Warren.
“The horse is a deep closer, but I just told Rafael not to drop 15
lengths out of it like he sometimes does. Every little bit helps in a
race like this.”
In other Cal Cup features on Saturday, Courtside sped to a
wire-to-wire victory in the $100,000 Donald Valpredo Sprint while
defeating Bob Black Jack by 2 ¼ lengths and Hillside Turf Course
specialist Unzip Me took the $125,000 John Deere Distaff as the 4/5
favorite with Bejarano achieving Win No. 5. The final time for the
six-furlong Sprint was a blazing 1:07.97.
Bejarano, whose mount in the Sprint, Cost of Freedom, was
scratched during the post parade, has turned out to be an almost perfect
fit for Norvsky. He rode the bay gelding to his first stakes win in
last July’s California Dreamin Handicap at Del Mar before missing by a
nose in the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes one month later. The Cal Cup
Classic was his third time aboard Norvsky.
In gaining his fifth victory in 16 races to accompany seven
seconds and three thirds, Norvsky paid $5, $3.20 and $2.40. Lucky Primo,
ridden by Victor Espinoza, returned $7.60 and $5.60. The show price on
Holladay Road, with Garrett Gomez aboard, was $4.40. The winning purse
of $105,000 elevated the career earnings of Norvsky to $397,844. His
only off-the-board showing was a fourth, 1 ¼ lengths behind victorious
Liberian Freighter, in last April’s Grade II Arcadia Stakes at Santa
Courtside, a 3-year-old gelding trained by John Sadler for
breeders Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, netted his first stakes
win in the Sprint. Joel Rosario sent him to the front immediately.
Courtside was never seriously threatened while speeding through
fractions of 21.36, 43.38 and 55.36.
“He likes to run on the lead like that, and at six furlongs,
that is the way to do it,” said Rosario. “I just let him get away and
hoped that he would hold on. To me, it looks like he can hold on at six
furlongs. He ran very good today.”
Bob Black Jack, who raced in a good stalking position while
handled by Patrick Valenzuela, finished second, one-half length ahead of
M One Rifle and jockey Chantal Sutherland. Mensa Heat, the 3-2 choice
in a field of seven, was of no consequence while running last.
Courtside, sired by Cindago, was participating in his first
stakes race, but solid recent form in allowance races attracted enough
support to put his odds at 9-2. He paid $11.40, $6.40 and $4.20. Bob
Black Jack paid $6 and $4.20. M One Rifle paid $3.20 to show.
Courtside’s first stakes victory was worth $60,000 which brought
the gray gelding’s career total to $178,300 from a 5-2-0 record in 10
Bejarano climaxed his brilliant day with a stirring ride atop
Unzip Me, the 5-year-old mare who had captured 5 of 8 previous starts at
6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s Hillside Turf Course and who had
finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill
The 29-year-old jockey, riding Unzip Me for the ninth time,
positioned her just behind the leading group coming down the hill, moved
outside for the stretch run and streaked home to defeat West Ruler by 1
¼ lengths in 1:12.53. Salty Sarah finished third, another neck back in
the field of 11 fillies and mares.
Trained by Marty Jones for breeders Harris Farms and Donald
Valpredo as well as co-owner Per Antonsen, Unzip Me paid $4.40, $3 and
$2.80. The mutuels on West Ruler were $6.20 and $4.60. Salty Sarah paid
$7.60 to show.
“She really ran her race today,” Jones said afterward. “She’s
just an amazing horse. Rafael rode her great today. He got her into a
nice comfortable position in a big field with some speed.” Commented
Bejarano, “I followed the speed and made one big run. She has improved a
lot, and she’s getting better. I think she will only keep getting
better and better.”
The victory in the Distaff, worth $75,000, raised the career
earnings of Unzip Me to $893,228. The daughter of City Zip’s record
became 13-4-3 in 23 career starts.
The series of five stakes race exclusively for California-breds
began with odds-on favorite Starlight Magic scoring by 1 ¾ lengths over
Willa B Awesome in the $100,000 Robert H. Walter Juvenile Fillies while
covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.47 under Bejarano.
A gray daughter of Marino Marini, Starlight Magic raced in
fourth through the early going, unleashed her bid nearing the far turn,
overtook Willa B Awesome in midstretch and scored impressively in her
first route try.
Willa B Awesome, ridden by Martin Pedroza, wound up a clear
runner-up while crossing the wire 10 ½ lengths ahead of
Raesunbridledfaith with Martin Garcia aboard in the field of six. The
winner paid $3.20.
Trained by Mark Glatt for Cory Wagner, Starlight Magic gained
her second victory in four starts. The winning purse of $60,000 hiked
her earnings to $96,780. Starlight Magic, bred by John and Diane
Fradkin, was purchased by Wagner for $75,000 at this year’s Barretts May
“She’s a free-running filly with a long stride and a good kick,”
Bejarano said in the winner’s circle. “She’s improving with every race,
and she’ll go further.”
Bejarano notched his second successive victory in the $100,000
Bob Benoit Juvenile when Rousing Sermon ran down pace-setter Motown Men
at the sixteenth pole to triumph by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:43.52 for the 1
Owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams, Rousing Sermon
won convincingly in his first race around two turns after a pair of
thirds in sprint stakes that followed his maiden victory. “You couldn’t
ask him to run any better,” noted winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Motown Men, who dictated a pedestrian pace with Gomez in the
saddle, held on for second, one-half length ahead of Stoney Fleece in
the field of nine 2-year-olds. As the co-second choice, Rousing Sermon
paid $9.20 to win. The win by the son of Lucky Pulpit increased his
earnings to $144,000.
Bejarano said he had been working Rousing Sermon at Hollywood in
preparation for the Juvenile. “He’s been getting better and better
every work,” Bejarano said, “and the last work he did really good. When I
saw (Motown Men) was hanging a little bit in the stretch, I got my
opportunity to get clear, and my horse showed me a big kick.”
Bejarano picked up his third victory of the afternoon with
longshot Mandated Bliss in an allowance event at 6 ½ furlongs. Trained
by Kathy Walsh for Al and Sandee Kirkwood, Mandated Bliss paid $25.