Multiple stakes winning Summer Hit, fresh off a front-running six length score in the Grade III Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields Nov. 29, looms strictly the horse to beat in Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic, which attracted a field of 14 older horses at 1 1/8 miles on grass.
An important component to the Golden State Series for horses bred or sired in California, the Turf Classic is part of a newly created Sunshine Millions Cal Cup Day at Santa Anita that will offer fans six stakes and 10 races overall.
A 5-year-old gelding by Bertrando, Summer Hit has three wins, a second and a third from six starts on turf. A dedicated speedster, Summer Hit has been a marvelous claim for trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer, who took him out of a nine-length first-out maiden $12,500 score on Jan. 21, 2012.
In addition to the Berkeley, in which he earned a 103 Beyer Speed figure, Summer Hit took the one mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes three starts back Aug. 31, and he was a gate to wire winner of the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles All American Stakes on May 27, 2013.
Owned in partnership with Hollendorfer by John Carver, Summer Hit is 15-9-2-2 overall, with earnings of $417,505.
Lucky Primo, whose last win came seven starts back in the Cal Cup Classic when run at 1 1/16 miles on dirt Oct. 13, 2012, has plenty of back class and is expected to show good early speed for trainer and co-breeder Josh Litt.
An 8-year-old Atticus gelding, Lucky Primo has three wins, a second and two thirds from 11 tries on turf. Owned by JBK Stable and Jason Litt, Lucky Primo has earnings of $486,650 from an overall mark of 22-6-3-5.
Although well beaten in the Grade II, one mile turf Sir Beaufort Stakes Dec. 26, Tiz a Minister is another with ample back class, and his running style could make him dangerous if a hot early pace develops in the Classic.
A 4-year-old colt by Ministers Wild Cat, Tiz a Minister won the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles Affirmed Handicap from far off the pace six starts back on June 2 and he came from the clouds to run a close third in the Grade II, San Felipe Stakes at the same distance on March 9.
Trained by Paul Aguirre and owned by Sayjay Racing, LLC, Tiz a Minister will be ridden for the first time in the Classic by Saul Arias. Although winless, he has two seconds and a third from four tries on turf. He has an overall mark of 18-3-5-5, with earnings of $481,030.
Trainer John Sadler will send out the hard hitting Stoney Fleece, who was an impressive neck winner of a $50,000 claiming race at 1 1/8 miles on grass in his most recent start Jan. 3. Reclaimed by Sadler two starts back on Dec. 6 for $40,000, Stoney Fleece won the Grade III Generous stakes at age two on Nov. 27, 2011 and took the minor Alcatraz Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on turf May 12, 2012 at Golden Gate Fields.
A 5-year-old gelding by Decarchy, Stoney Fleece is owned by Gary Barber and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. He has an outstanding turf record of 19-5-4-4 and is 26-7-5-5 overall, with earnings of $442,134.
The complete field for the Cal Cup Turf Classic, to be run as the ninth on a 10-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Summer Hit, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Affrettando, Orlando Mojica, 120; Lucky Primo, Martin Garcia, 120; Empty Headed, Alonso Quinonez, 120; Huntsville, Mike Smith, 120; Weewinnin, Joe Talamo, 120; Jules Journey, Gary Stevens, 120; Tiz a Minister, Saul Arias, 123; China Prince, Corey Nakatani, 120; Unusual Meeting, Frank Alvarado, 120; Stoney Fleece, Victor Espinoza, 120; Hittheroadrunning, Tyler Baze, 120; Jonny’s Choice, Patrick Valenzuela, 120, and Maybe Tuesday, Kent Desormeaux, 120.