CALIFORNIAN IS FINAL MAJOR STEPPINGSTONE TO GRADE I GOLD CUP AT SANTA ANITA JUNE 27
ARCADIA, Calif. (May 25, 2015)–Southern Equine Stables’ venerable Moreno, who comes off an epic upset of Shared Belief in his most recent start, heads a field of nine three year olds and up in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. The final steppingstone to the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 27, the Californian will be contested for the 62nd time on Saturday.
Trained by Eric Guillot, Moreno, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Ghostzapper, sat second early in the mile and one eighth, Grade II Charles Town Classic April 18, assumed command turning down the backside and went on to a powerful two length win as odds-on favorite Shared Belief was eased.
Second, beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Shared Belief three starts back in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 7, Moreno is best suited on the front end and although he is winless in eight starts at The Great Race Place, his style is without doubt conducive to success in Arcadia.
A Grade I winner who was second, beaten a nose by Will Take Charge at age three in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga, Moreno has marched to the verbose orders of his colorful conditioner through four racing seasons at nine different tracks in three different time zones. His overall mark stands at 26-4-8-4 and he has earnings of $2,926,940.
Argentine-bred Catch a Flight, who was third, beaten a head for second by Moreno two starts back in the Santa Anita Handicap, got his first stakes win last out in the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita on May 2. Highly regarded in the Richard Mandella stable since his arrival late last year, the 5-year-old horse by Giant’s Causeway is running to his notices and looms a stout threat in the Californian.
Although Flavien Prat pinch hit for regular pilot Gary Stevens in the Precisionist due to Stevens’ major commitments that day at Churchill Downs, Stevens will be back aboard Catch a Flight on Saturday. Owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, Catch a Flight is 14-8-0-3, with earnings of $273,239.
Trainer Peter Miller’s Argentine-bred Big Cazanova, a gate to wire winner two starts back of the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar Nov. 29, enters the Californian fresh and dangerous, as he’s been idle since running fifth to Hoppertunity in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual Stakes Jan. 10.
With Tyler Baze engaged to ride from the number one post position, look for Big Cazanova to have run on his mind early on Saturday. Owned by Dona Licha, Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Brous Stable, LLC, Big Cazanova, a 6-year-old ridgling by Giant’s Causeway, is 21-4-6-6 overall with earnings of $397,692.
Should the likes of Big Cazanova and Moreno scorch the track early, trainer Doug O’Neill’s Sammy Mandeville could prove a late threat. A dedicated deep closer, the 4-year-old colt by Rock Hard Ten flew late to finish second, beaten three quarters of a length, by Catch a Flight in the Precisionist Stakes May 2.
Owned by W.C. Racing, Sammy Mandeville is 13-2-3-1 overall with earnings of $166,912.
The complete field for the Grade II Californian Stakes, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Big Cazanova, Tyler Baze, 119; Bailoutbobby, Drayden Van Dyke, 119; You Know I Know, Edwin Maldonado, 119; Hard Aces, Victor Espinoza, 119; Lideris, Joe Talamo, 119; Blue Tone, Kent Desormeaux, 119; Moreno, Cornelio Velasquez, 124; Catch a Flight, Gary Stevens, 119 and Sammy Mandeville, Rafael Bejarano, 119.
First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.