Sunday Rules to face males in California Cup Sprint
Edited Press Release
A winner in seven of eight career starts, the exciting distaffer Sunday Rules will make her first attempt against males in Saturday’s $150,000 California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. The Sprint, to be run for the 26th time, has attracted a field of seven and will be contested at 6-furlongs.
The Sprint is one of five stakes restricted to horses bred or sired in California on Santa Anita’s annual Sunshine Millions Day.
Regarded as one of the top California-breds in training, the Phil d’Amato-trained Sunday Rules was forced to miss last Saturday’s Santa Monica (G2) due to a minor ailment. The 5-year-old Tribal Rule mare exits a brilliant 4 ¼-length tally in the 6 ½ furlong Kalookan Queen Stakes at Santa Anita on December 30 and will be seeking her third consecutive victory. Edwin Maldonado replaces an out-of-town Mike Smith.
After registering his first graded victory in the January 2 Midnight Lute (G3), trainer Karen Headley’s San Onofre will return to state-bred company. The speedy 6-year-old Surf Cat gelding exhibited a new dimension in the 6 ½ furlong Midnight Lute, rating kindly before rallying to score by a half-length, and Alex Solis retains the mount.
Northern California-based Alert Bay heads a wide-open field of 12 as he makes a title defense in the $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic. Conditioned by Blaine Wright, the 5-year-old gelding also captured the 2014 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) and the City of Hope Mile (G2) last September at Santa Anita. Martin Garcia has the call in the 1 1/8-mile turf affair.
His top rivals include Poshsky and G.G. Ryder, the first- and third-place finishers from the November 29 Berkeley (G3) at Golden Gate Fields; What a View, a sharp recent winner over allowance foes on the course; and multiple stakes winner Soi Phet.
Unbeaten in five starts, Smokey Image heads a field of seven state-bred sophomores as he tries two turns for the first time in the $250,000 California Cup Derby. Originally trained by Northern California-based Greg James, Smokey Image will be making his first outing for Carla Gaines.
The Southern Image colt has been idle since taking the seven-furlong Golden State Juvenile as the odds-on favorite at Del Mar on October 30, overcoming significant early trouble to win by three-quarters of a length, and he’ll receive a rider switch to Victor Espinoza.
Glory Bound and Tough It Out, the 2-3 finishers in the one mile King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos on December 12, represent the main challengers.
With the only turf attempt under her belt, Roo’s Valentine heads a field of eight in Saturday’s $200,000 California Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the turf.
Roo’s Valentine has never been out of the money in five lifetime starts. After two thirds and a second when sprinting over the main track in maiden special weights, Roo’s Valentine seemed to finally find her footing around two turns. After breaking her maiden going a mile on the grass at Del Mar in early November, she followed up with a win in the one-mile Soviet Problem Stakes at Los Alamitos. A month later. The Kristin Mulhall trainee keeps Martin Pedroza in the saddle.
The post time favorite in two out of three lifetime starts, Pacific Heat will look for redemption after an eighth as the 2-1 choice in the Los Alamitos Starlet (G1). Flavien Prat picks up the mount for Peter Eurton.
Patriotic Diamond will attempt to rebound off a sixth place finish in the Starlet and will have Rafael Bejarano back in the saddle. The Patrick Biancone charge captured the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar two starts back.
In probably the most competitive race on an action-packed program, the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint, to be run at 6 ½ furlongs down the Camino Real Turf Course, has attracted a field of 14 older fillies and mares, with 12 to start.
Velvet Mesquite, who comes off a close seventh place run in the Monrovia (G2) down the hill on January 3, is a top contender for trainer Blake Heap. A 6-year-old mare by In Excess, she is 11-5-1-2 over the course, including a win in the 2014 California Distaff Handicap. Kent Desormeaux rides.
Trained by Phil D’Amato, Sheer Pleasure has the form to challenge if she takes to hillside course. The two-time state-bred stakes winner will be guided by Typer Baze. Chati’s On Top looms a serious threat if she runs back to her victory in the Solana Beach at Del Mar three starts back and three-time restricted stakes queen My Fiona is eligible to improve in her second start back from a freshening.
Other contenders include Qiaona, Singing Kitty and Smoove It.
Sunday Rules photo courtesy of Benoit Photos