Unbeaten and unchallenged Acceptance guns for his fourth straight victory in Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

A son of Vronsky trained by Don Warren, the colt has won his three races by a combined margin of more than 17 lengths, winning by three at a mile last out in the King Glorious for California-breds at Los Alamitos.

Owners Bud and Judy Johnston and Robert Riggio are hopeful that’s a good omen. California Chrome won the King Glorious and Cal Cup Derby last year en route to a Horse of the Year campaign that included victories in the San Felipe Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Hollywood Derby.

“He’s doing well and he’s worked well,” said former jockey Kenny Black, Warren’s assistant. “He looks like a million dollars right now. He looks to be doing as good as he can be doing, I guess.

“We’ve liked this horse from Day One, but we would have never expected him to do what he did in his first couple of outs (winning his debut by 13 ¼ lengths, then taking his next start (a 1 ¼-length triumph in the Golden State Juvenile at seven furlongs in 1:21.60 at Santa Anita on Nov. 1). He followed that with a victory in the King Glorious.

“That’s the fastest seven-eighths I’ve ever seen a two-year-old run, on any track,” said Black, who has ridden for Warren in the past and has been associated with him since the early 1980s. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one run faster than he did that day.

“I’ve been helping Don in the mornings off and on for 20, 30 years. We had a champion with Acclimation, but this horse, Acceptance, is pretty close. This is a nice horse.”

Trainer Steve Miyadi gave no hint Friday morning of any physical problems with Tough Sunday, although HRTV reported there were possible issues with the son of Grazen, making his status for the race tentative at press time.

The field for the Derby, race six of 10 with a first post time of 12 noon: Tough Sunday, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Acceptance, Elvis Trujillo, 4-5; Mischief Clem, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Neveradoubt, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Kluszewski, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Chanito, Brandon Boulanger, 50-1; Pulmarack, Drayden Van Dyke, 9-2; and Avanti Bello, Mike Smith, 20-1.



Awesome Return may never win an Eclipse Award, but he’s a horse any trainer would like to have in his barn.

That includes Mike Puype, who conditions the 4-year-old son of Decarchy for owner/breeder Richard Kritzki. The bay colt goes for his fifth victory from 11 starts when he runs in Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles.

“He has no bad habits,” Puype said. “He’s all race horse. He’s never run a bad turf race; eight starts, four wins, one second, three thirds. He’s earned $354,780, which is not bad. It helps pay the bills.”

The Turf Classic field: Tamarando, Corey Nakatani. 10-1; G.G. Ryder, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Alert Bay, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Patriots Rule, Fernando Perez, 15-1; Big Bane Theory, Joe Talamo, 3-1; Bench Light, Elvis Trujillo, 8-1; Awesome Return, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Stoney Fleece, Tiago Pereira, 30-1; Boozer, Gary Stevens, 8-1; Super Ability, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Christopher Street, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; and Alpine Luck, Brice Blanc, 50-1.



Heat Trap moves from inside to outside in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint at about 6 ½ furlongs, and Victor Espinoza likes the change.

“The trip is important, especially going down the hill,” Espinoza said. “Last time I rode her (second in the Grade II Monrovia breaking from the No. 3 post position), I was in a little traffic with her.

“Everywhere I went, some horse was slowing down in front of me, but she tries. She’s pretty amazing. I like the outside (14) post better than the inside. I think I have a better chance.”

The field: More Complexity, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Home Journey, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Velvet Mesquite, Mike Smith, 4-1; Tribal Gal, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Heavens Stairway, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; Go West Marie, Gary Stevens, 12-1; Doinghardtimeagain, Elvis Trujillo, 15-1; Kathleen Rose, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; My Monet, Martin Garcia, 30-1; Marks Mine, Frank Alvarado, 15-1; Magic Spot, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; and Heat Trap, Victor Espinoza, 9-2.

Air of Royalty and Shakeitupbetty were scratched.



If stakes races are being run for California-breds at Santa Anita, Steve Specht must be on hand. And so he is for tomorrow’s Sunshine Millions California Cup Day extravaganza at The Great Race Place.

Specht sends out the consistent Benchmark mare Marks Mine in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, a race she was second in by a half-length last year.

“She’s doing good, she shipped down (from Golden Gate) good,” Specht said. “The race looks tough. It looks like there’s a lot of gas in there, but she’s pretty quick herself. If she gets a good break from the gate, she’ll be on the lead or right there.

“She got beat last year and I think the little jump (she experienced) coming across the dirt might have been the reason she got beat. She went from a half a length in front to a half a length behind in one step, and she lost by a half-length, so that would have done it.”

Specht also sends out Swiss swimmer in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks. Both horses are owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams.



Silver Starlight is a maiden going into Saturday’s California Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf, but Doug O’Neill says there’s an upside to the endeavor.

“It’s in our own back yard, it’s a nice purse ($200,000), restricted to Cal-breds, she’s doing well, and we’re going to go after it,” the trainer said.

A daughter of the Storm Cat sire Mario Marini, the gray filly was fourth in her maiden voyage at Del Mar last November, then ran an encouraging second despite a wide trip late in a one-mile turf race for maiden allowance winners at Santa Anita on Jan. 1.

The Oaks field: Patsy G and Me, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Singing Kitty, Aaron Gryder, 5-1; Swiss Skimmer, Frank Alvarado, 15-1; Heat the Rocks, Elvis Trujillo, 2-1; Sheer Pleasure, Kent Desormeaux, 5-2; Light One, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Tribal Express, Alonso Quinonez, 15-1; and Silver Starlight, Flavian Prat, 8-1.



            Disillusioned by drawing the No. One post position, trainer Richard Baltas scratched likely favorite Big Macher from Saturday’s $150,000 California Cup Sprint and will point the California-bred son of Beau Genius to next Saturday’s Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes instead.

            The field for the Sprint, which goes as race eight, with an adjusted morning line: San Onofre, Mike Smith, 4-5; Rousing Sermon, Elvis Trujillo, 4-1; Frensham, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; Grazen’s Hope, Tyler Baze. 12-1; Follini, Edwin Maldonado, 10-1; Marino’s Wild Cat, Martin Garcia, 6-1; and Spirit Rules, Ignacio Puglisi, 6-1.

In addition to Big Macher, Frumious also was scratched.



When My Sonny Boy won the inaugural California Cup Classic in 1990, the storyline was right out of the classic Marx Brothers’ film, “A Day at the Races.” Difference was, Barry Fitzgerald wasn’t the trainer. It was Bill Spawr.

Spawr had Patrick Valenzuela booked to ride the 5-year-old son of To-Agori-Mou in the mile-and-an-eighth race, but P. Val pulled a last-minute Houdini, leaving Spawr without a rider.

Fourteen horses were entered in the race, so everyone in the jocks’ room was spoken for. There was no rider available.

“Patrick didn’t show,” Spawr related at his barn Friday morning on the eve of Sunshine Millions California Cup Day tomorrow. “At the last minute, the jocks’ room calls and says he’s not here. I said, ‘Who’s left?’ Darryl (assistant Darryl Rader) and I walked to the room, and we were told that Jorge Velasquez (Hall of Famer and winner of the 1981 Kentucky Derby with Pleasant Colony) had just left and was heading to his car.’

“Darryl took off running and got him to come and ride the horse. Had it been a few minutes later, we would have had to scratch the horse. He won easy.”

Velasquez led throughout to score by 2 ½ lengths at odds of nearly 9-1.

            “It was Charlie (then Clerk of Scales Charlie McCaul) who told Bill no rider was available,” Rader said. “Bill asked who was in the room and Charlie told him nobody. ‘Your only chance is Jorge, and he just left for his car. If you can catch him, maybe he’ll ride the horse. There’s no one left.’

“He pointed to the jocks’ parking lot and I just started running my ass off,” Rader said. “Jorge was putting his bag in the trunk and I told him the story, he pulled it out and said, ‘No problem,’ and he jogged back.”

            Recalled Spawr:”A few years ago I was at Belmont and I ran into Jorge. He’s a jock’s agent now. I went to introduce him to (owner) Roddy Valente, and Velasquez turned around in a New York minute and says, ‘Bill Spawr? My Sonny Boy?’ I said, ‘You remember that?’ He says, ‘How can I forget something like that?’

“Good thing Darryl is a fast runner or we’d have had to scratch the horse.”



Leading online wagering provider Xpressbet is proud to support the Sunshine Millions/California Cup and sponsor the $200,000 Xpressbet California Cup Oaks at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Cal Cup is racing’s premier event for California bred and sired runners, with five races worth a combined $1 million in purses. Last year’s California Cup Derby champion, California Chrome, went on to win four Grade I races and would also be named Horse of the Year.

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Join NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop and NTRA lobbyist Greg Means of The Alpine Group at Santa Anita Park Saturday morning for a federal legislative briefing.

This one-hour event begins at 10:30 a.m. and features updates on federal legislation that will impact horse racing and breeding and an insider’s view of the new Congress. Waldrop and Means also will take questions. The briefing is open to the public.

The briefing will be held in the Baldwin Conference Room (third level of Grandstand above Clockers’ Corner).


FINISH LINES: Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern is jogging for Bob Baffert but chances of making the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 7 and a possible meeting with Horse of the Year California Chrome and male 2-year-old champ of 2013 Shared Belief diminish by the day. Baffert does have Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle on course for next Saturday’s Palos Verdes Stakes, unbeaten Los Alamitos Futurity winner Dortmund ticketed for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7 and Maybelline and impressive maiden winner Fantastic Style set for the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes next Saturday . . . Zenyatta offspring Cozmic One worked five furlongs for trainer John Shirreffs under Victor Espinoza in company as he prepares for his debut. Cozmic One was timed in 1:03, while Captain Tim went in 1:03.40 under Tyler Baze . . .Sofast, a candidate for the Grade II Arcadia Stakes next Saturday, worked six furlongs under Flavian Prat in 1:13.20 for trainer Gary Mandella . . . Jerry Hollendorfer on Sam’s Sister, who gave him his sixth stakes win of the meet Monday when she won the Grade II Santa Monica: “We’ve always loved this filly. I loved her when I bought her and we loved her when she was being broken at Pegasus Training Center, and we loved her when she came down to us. She had a little problem and had to be turned out to go back to Pegasus for a while. They got her ready and we brought her back. And here she is.” Hollendorfer has horses entered in eight of the 10 races Saturday and a total of nine overall . . . Horse owner and player Bill Strauss, and Glenn Alsdorf, Santa Anita weekday paddock seminar host, will be Tom Quigley‘s guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, in the East Paddock Gardens, Saturday at 10:50 a.m. and Sunday at 11:20 a.m. . . . HRTV will re-broadcast Saturday’s 2014 Eclipse Awards in its entirety tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific, and re-air from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.


(Current Through Monday, Jan. 19)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Rafael Bejarano 85 22 17 10 26% $1,013,924
Kent Desormeaux 58 14 7 7 24% $704,498
Tyler Baze 95 11 7 13 12% $616,988
Victor Espinoza 59 10 12 6 17% $663,090
Elvis Trujillo 68 10 7 6 15% $616,376
Martin Pedroza 60 9 11 5 15% $335,090
Corey Nakatani 44 7 7 7 16% $412,260
Drayden Van Dyke 68 7 6 10 10% $377,516
Fernando Perez 60 7 6 3 12% $243,404
Gary Stevens 33 7 4 6 21% $326,080
Mike Smith 41 6 7 7 15% $558,411
Joseph Talamo 73 5 11 11 7% $488,948
Flavien Prat 29 5 2 5 17% $196,740
Brandon Boulanger 40 5 1 3 13% $100,030
Martin Garcia 40 4 9 5 10% $477,650
Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Jerry Hollendorfer 51 14 7 6 27% $1,163,404
Peter Miller 51 11 11 5 22% $660,016
Doug O’Neill 49 5 6 5 10% $273,820
Mark Glatt 24 5 4 4 21% $187,236
Peter Eurton 28 5 3 6 18% $276,308
Bob Baffert 35 4 8 5 11% $494,418
Philip D’Amato 22 4 4 4 18% $190,780
Mark Casse 24 4 4 4 17% $334,360
Michael Pender 12 4 3 0 33% $113,940
John Sadler 41 3 6 8 7% $256,516
Mike Puype 30 3 4 4 10% $136,750
Carla Gaines 17 3 3 1 18% $198,265
Richard Baltas 22 3 2 3 14% $114,278
Hector Palma 8 3 1 0 38% $64,460
Barry Abrams 13 3 1 0 23% $105,148
Jeff Bonde 13 3 0 3 23% $126,960
Eddie Truman 5 3 0 1 60% $77,530
A. C. Avila 12 3 0 1 25% $70,600
Julio Canani 9 3 0 0 33% $80,490