ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 26, 2011) – Soul Candy, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Paddy Gallagher, will attempt to become the first back-to-back winner of the $175,000 California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank on Saturday when Santa Anita hosts the 22nd running of the series of stakes races exclusively for California-breds.

Not only does Soul Candy face the challenge of winning the festive day’s centerpiece in successive years. Along with seven opponents, he will have to deal with a change in surface as the mile-and-one-eighth Classic is to be contested on turf for the first time.

A total of nine races restricted to Cal-breds will get underway at 1 p.m. with a Cal Cup T-shirt giveaway being offered to fans with paid admission.

The deepest contingent of accomplished runners will fight it out in the $100,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint which brings together Cost of Freedom, Bob Black Jack and M One Rifle in a field of 10 going six furlongs.

At the age of seven, Cost of Freedom won the event by 6 ¼ lengths last year, but he was not facing the likes of Bob Black Jack and M One Rifle, past winners of Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes. The seven-furlong Malibu is the only open Grade I sprint competition during Santa Anita’s winter-spring season. In winning the Malibu, the names of Bob Black Jack (2008) and M One Rifle (2009) joined a list that includes such renowned runners as Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1962), Spectacular Bid (1980) and Ferdinand (1986).

Unzip Me, a winner of four Grade III competitions and a downhill grass course specialist, will be a solid choice among 14 entrants in the $125,000 John Deere California Cup Distaff at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Unzip Me finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.

Nine young hopefuls in the Bob Benoit California Cup Juvenile will be trying to sort themselves out over 1 1/16 miles while in search of a first stakes victory to accelerate their budding careers.

Willa B. Awesome, a recent winner of Fairplex Park’s $89,000 Barretts Debutante Stakes, is the most advanced of the six aspirants entered in the $100,000 Robert H. Walter California Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

As for the Classic, Soul Candy, who will be ridden by David Flores, has not been to the winner’s circle in seven starts since his 2010 triumph at odds of 5-1. He nonetheless has been competitive against top-notch opposition. He finished third, 2 ½ lengths behind Caracortado in Santa Anita’s Sunshine Millions Turf; fourth, 4 ¾ lengths behind Game On Dude in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, and fourth, 1 ¼ lengths behind Twirling Candy in the Grade II Californian at Hollywood Park.

A son of Birdonthewire owned by E Z Eight Racing Stable and breeder Madera Thoroughbreds, Soul Candy has won 4 of 17 starts for $314,300. Three of his victories were recorded on turf. While Soul Candy could become the Classic’s first back-to-back winner, Bold Chieftain has won the race twice, but in odd years, 2007 and 2009.

On Saturday, Soul Candy will have to contend with Norvsky. Trained by Don Warren for E. W. and Judy Johnston and Robert Riggio, Norvsky quite simply is hickory. He’s been off-the-board but once in 15 starts when fourth, beaten for it all by 1¼ lengths, in Santa Anita’s Grade II Arcadia Stakes last April. He has earned $287,844 from his 4-7-3 performance in 15 races. Norvsky, to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, has raced mostly on grass with a turf record of 3-5-2 in 11 outings. The 5-year-old gelding was sired by Vronsky at Old English Rancho in Sanger, near Fresno.

The complete field for the California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank (seventh race), with jockeys and weights in post position order: Tiz Argent, Alonso Quinonez, 117; Norvsky, Rafael Bejarano, 124; Mega Heat, Joseph Talamo, 121; Romeo Royale, Christian Santiago Reyes, 119; Holladay Road, Garrett Gomez, 119; Tamarack Smarty, Joel Rosario, 117; Lucky Primo, Victor Espinoza, 124, and Soul Candy, David Flores, 117.

Bob Black Jack has been working well in preparation for the Sprint after a couple of long career interruptions due primarily to a suspensory ligament injury sustained during a workout. But, after being off for 14 months following his victory in the 2008 Malibu, the son of Stormy Jack returned with a flourish to take Santa Anita’s Grade II San Carlos Handicap by a like margin.

However, the 6-year-old trained by James Kasparoff for Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff has not raced since the San Carlos on Feb. 10 of last year. “He’s ready to run,” reports trainer Kasparoff. Patrick Valenzuela will take over the controls on the speedster whose overall record is 5-2-1 in 11 starts for earnings of $684,925.

After winning 4 of his first 8 stats including the 2009 Malibu by 2 ½ lengths over Misremembered, M One Rifle has won but once in seven starts, capturing Hollywood Park’s $91,000 Cool Frenchy Stakes in May. Chantal Sutherland will be aboard the 5-year-old One Man Army gelding trained by Bruce Headley for Ed Bernstein, Bryan Greenspun and Headley. M One Rifle, a 5-year-old gelding, has earnings of $491,002 from a lifetime mark of 5-2-5 in 15 starts.

If Cost of Freedom is to repeat in the Sprint, he would become the event’s first two-time winner as well as the oldest at the age of eight. A son of Cee’s Tizzy bred by Harris Farms, Cost of Freedom has become a marvel. Claimed for $50,000 by Gary and Cecil Barber in the summer of 2008, he went on to win that year’s Grade I Ancient Title Stakes in September at Santa Anita. The next year, he lost the Breeders’ Cup Sprint by a head at Santa Anita when third to Dancing in Silks and Crown of Thorns. Cost of Freedom won three stakes in addition to the Cal Cup Sprint last year.

John Sadler, who trained Cost of Freedom for the Barbers, put him in a race for a claiming tag of $32,000 at Del Mar in September. He was haltered by trainer Ed Moger Jr. out of the fourth-place finish and subsequently ran second in an allowance event at Fairplex Park. Owned now by Steve Moger, Cost of Freedom enters the Cal Cup Sprint with earnings of $910,013 from an overall record of 11-3-4 in 26 races.

The complete field for the Donald Valpredo Breeders’ Cup Sprint (eighth race), with jockeys and weights in post position order: Mensa Heat, Talamo, 124; Legal Separation, Espinoza, 117; Cost of Freedom, Bejarano, 117; Chiloquin, Martin Pedroza, 122; Bob Black Jack, Patrick Valenzuela, 117; Dance With Gable, Gomez, 117; Courtside, Rosario, 117; Warren’s Knockout, Quinonez, 122; M One Rifle, Chantal Sutherland, 124, and Frumious, Martin Garcia, 117.

The connections of Unzip Me opted for the Distaff rather than return for another run at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. “She got black-type back there already,” said Marty Jones, who trains the 5-year-old mare for co-breeders Harris Farms and Donald Valpredo, who own Unzip Me in a partnership that includes Per Antonsen.

The daughter of City Zip has developed a keen affinity for Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, winning 5 of 8 starts over the layout. She did falter in her last appearance when losing by one length on Sept. 30. The fourth-place outcome in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap on Sept. 30 marked the ultra consistent mare’s first off-the-board finish in 16 races. Bejarano will be back aboard as she attempts to add $75,000 to earnings of $818,228 from a record of 12-4-3 in 22 career starts.

Unzip Me’s opposition includes Samantha Clement and breeder Stephen Weissman’s Sugarinthemorning, a 3-year-old Candy Ride filly who won her only start over the course. Trained by Ron McAnally and regularly ridden by Valenzuela, Sugarinthemorning won Hollywood Park’s Manhattan Beach Stakes and the Fleet Treat at Del Mar this summer. The bay filly has captured 5 of 10 starts for earnings of $247,834.

Claimed for $12,500 by Live Your Dreams Racing Stable in September of last year, Salty Sarah continues her ascent up racing’s ladder. After missing by a nose to Rumor in Del Mar’s $95,000 CERF Stakes on Sept. 7, the 5-year-old Bertrando mare will be in search of her fourth win in eight starts for trainer Bob Baffert since the claim. Martin Garcia rides.

The complete field for the John Deere California Cup Distaff (ninth race), with jockeys and weights in post position order: Sugarinthemorning, Valenzuela, 122; West Ruler, Rosario, 121; Strawberry Tart, Maldonado-Alicea, 117; Bench Glory, Brice Blanc, 119; Always in Style, Talamo, 117; California Nectar, Pedroza, 122; Antares World, Daniel Vergara, 117; Waveline, Gomez, 117; Cayanna, Espinoza, 118; Meltarib, Quinonez, 117; Evasive Charmer, Flores, 117; Unzip Me, Bejarano, 124; Salty Sarah, Garcia, 117, and Warren’s Creampuff, Reyes, 117.

Champions Gate and Rousing Sermon, who finished second and third, respectively, in Del Mar’s $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes on Sept. 5, will be among the leading contenders in the Juvenile.

Donald Dizney’s Champions Gate missed by 3 ¼ lengths to victorious Ruler of Dubai as the 3-5 favorite in the I’m Smokin following an impressive maiden win. Joel Rosario rides the gelding trained by Michael Machowsky.

Rousing Sermon’s third place finish in the I’m Smokin matched his third behind Ruler of Dubai in the earlier Graduation Stakes at Del Mar. Garrett Gomez rides the Lucky Pulpit colt owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams. Jerry Hollendorfer is the trainer.

The complete field for the Bob Benoit California Cup Juvenile (fourth race), with jockeys in post position order (all starters carry 120 pounds): Unveiled Heat, Talamo; Far to Reach, Quinonez; Motown Men, Gomez; Rousing Sermon, Bejarano; Broadway Nika, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Stoney Fleece, Espinoza; Inquisitive Son, Sutherland; Our Boy Benjamin, Valenzuela, and Champions Gate, Rosario.

After chasing victorious Heleonor Rugby in both the CTBA Stakes and Generous Portion during this summer’s Del Mar meet, Willa B Awesome turned the tables by upsetting the 1-2 favorite in the Barretts Debutante at Fairplex Park on Sept. 17. She scored her first stakes victory by an emphatic 2 ¾ lengths at six furlongs.

Sired by Awesome Gambler, Willa B Awesome will get her first test around two turns in the Juvenile Fillies for trainer Walther Solis. Martin Pedroza will be back in the irons atop the chestnut filly who has earned $121,896 for a partnership headed by Phil Daniels. Her record is 2-1-1 in six starts.

The complete field for the Robert H. Walter California Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes (third race), with jockeys in post position order (all starters carry 120 pounds): Real Dream, Talamo; One Magical Girl, Rosario; Toluca, Sutherland; Raesunbridledfaith, Garcia; Willa B Awesome, Pedroza, and Starlight Magic, Bejarano.