The 9th Running of the CA Cup Derby
January 15, 2022 17:20
SA Race #8 $200.000 11/16 Dirt
CA-Bred 3YOs 121Lbs (plus penalties)
Track Record-1:38.57 (Icicle-2005)
Stakes Record-1:41.48 (The Perfect Day-2016)
The 9th CA Cup Derby is set for Saturday at SA. Cal-bred sophomores will be go 8.5 furlongs on the main track in pursuit of a $200.000. Set to go as Race 8, the CA Cup Derby will be the third of five Cal-bred stakes on the SA card. Liberia, by virtue of his G2 Best Pal victory in August, has been assigned 127 pounds and will have to give his rivals 4-6 pinds on the scale; One Last Punch Line, the only other stakes-winner in the field, was assigned 123 pounds and he will give the other nine runners two pounds. Historically, this race has seen the victor move on to the TC trail for at least one prep and has produced TC runners on multiple occasions. Smokey Stover has taken two of the first eight runnings and is the only trainer/jockey with more than one of these trophies. This year, we have a full field of twelve signed-on, so let’s go ahead and meet the runners in the CA Cup Derby:
PP Horse (Trainer/Breeder/Jockey)
#1 Average Joe (Mb Stables/Harrell Racing/Ru. Gonzalez 121):Rail-horse won on debut back in June at PRX and was sold six weeks later to the current connections. Only two sprint runs since, but he finished-up well in both efforts even if he only has a 3rd place finish to show for it. Works since his last suggest that this stretchout is not that big of a hurdle for him. Expect him to use this draw to his advantage and lay closer to the pace than he has been when going one turn. Don’t expect him to embarass himself.
#2 Starship Candlestick (TwinTowersRacing/TwinTowersRacing/Mario Gutierrez 121): Homebred’s effort in his last was really good when you consider the winner established a new stakes record and this guy was close to the pace and only beaten a length. Broke his maiden two back going two turns and this will be his third consecutive two-turn race. Bullet work to start the new year suggest he is ready to try this group and any forward progression off of the December try should certainly see him in the mix.
#3 Liberia (Waldo/Waldo/V. Espinoza 127): The only graded-winner in the field pays for it on the scales for this assignment. If he stays in (and that is a legitimate question given the impost), probably safe to say this will be the most weight he ever carries. All of that aside, this is a talented individual. Ran in the BC, and though he finished 8th, he was only beaten a length after rallying from well back. His m.o. going two-turns seems to suggest that post doesn’t affect his style; he’s going to drop back and make one run. Love his talent, but 127 is a lot of weight and can’t endorse giving this field that many pounds.
#4 One Last Punch Line (Alydar Stables/Jediminds Stable/J.J. Hernandez 123): Colt has two runs going two-turns and used differing tactics in each. Last effort in the G3, he dropped back some six lengths before unleashing a run that would see him finish sixth, beaten only two lengths. The route try before that, he was closer to a slower pace, but just missed the win when beaten three-quarters of a length. Maybe he finds the right trip here that leads to a different outcome. Working well for this assignment and he could upset the applecart if he figures everything out.
#5 Suspect (Arindel/Team 7 Illusions/F. Prat 121): Taken for the $50.000 tag in a winning effort 2nd time out and won right back for the new connections. Has seen stakes competition in his last four races, but hasn’t fared very well versus graded/ungraded foes yet. Gelding tried the turf in his latest, but goes back on the main track for this after working a strong 1:36 and 4/5 for the mile. If he can replicate that Saturday evening, he rates strong consideration; however, would have liked to see him be a bit more competitive in his stakes tries. Your call.
#6 White Sunshine (Smokey Stover/Smokey Stover/A. Cedillo 121): Very “un-Smokey” like to see a last-out maiden winner thrown in this deep, but, with the TC trail getting ready to heat up, time to see what’s under the hood for this homebred. The two works on the tab show you that he got much better after that debut effort and he backed-up the morning exercise with a strong GP MSW performance. Went to the front and never looked back in that one; however, these are some tough-looking customers in the gate with him for this one. This barn is known for their patience, so respect the fact that this was the selection for his first try against winners. Strong contender to be the barn’s third winner in this event.
#7 Punch The Fox (Bad Boys Racing/Jediminds Stable/M.E. Smith 121): Won his first two starts and earned a shot against CA bred stakes runners, but ran a complete stinker when 11th. Dropped in for the $50.000 tag and was promptly claimed out of that 2nd place effort. Rewarded the current connections with a victory two back, but finished off-the-board when 5th at HAW in a stakes last month. All of his races have been sprints and this is a tough group to tackle for his first two-turn assignment. He may make me regret it, but going to pass on him answering multiple questions here.
#8 Loquacious Luka (Night Rider Stables/Night Rider Stables/E. Maldonado 121): Debut winner has seen a steady diet of stakes company in the five races since and only has one 2nd-place effort to show for his efforts. Been off over 100-days prior to this, so he may need one to show his best stuff. This will be his first attempt going two turns, his current form isn’t great, and he hasn’t been very active in the mornings since October; however, gut feeling that he runs better than expected and leaves SA with at least a slice.
#9 Gem Of A Shark (Arindel/Arindel/D. Van Dyke 121): Barn’s second entrant is a homebred with only the BTP maiden-breaker to his credit. Exits the same race as the two horse, but he was making-up ground before settling for sixth. Took a trip to the vet after that race and has worked strongly for this assignment. Has the early foot to sit a good trip and definitely looks like one that may appreciate getting more ground. A long way from BTP, but think he will run very well in this spot. Win contender.
#10 Croton Road (Fractious/Fractious/J.R. Velazquez 121): Big-money MSW winner has faced graded foes in four consecutive races and should appreciate the drop down to the state-bred level. Looks to be at the mercy of the pace battle that may or may not develop as he likes to get settled and make one run. If he can time it correctly, a similar move to what he displayed in his last start at SA could get the job done here. By the same token, if he runs a repeat of his latest, he could see similar results. Tough call on this guy, but going to let him beat me.
#11 Green River (South Shore Stables/South Shore Stables/K. Frey 121): Still a maiden after eight tries, but does have four in-the-money finishes to his credit. This would normally be a spot where he’d be a hard pass; however, when your trainer in winning races at a 31% clip, it’s best to give him another look. Still, this is a tough ask. Pass, but with a touch of trepidation.
#12 For Your Pleasure (Nakamura Stables/Nakamura Stables/J. Bravo 121): Front-running type gets no favors with this wide gate, but he does benefit from the fact that he shouldn’t have to go “crazy” fast to be up on the pace. Colt faded to fourth on the grass after setting the tempo at this same distance in his last effort, but he was hounded every step that day. If he can get put some daylight between himself and his nearest competitor, he may be able to seetle down and put up more of a fight in the lane. Speed is always dangerous, but going to leave him off of the ticket.
Final Analysis: May be reading too much into it; however, going to the windows with both fists in support of White Sunshine. Says here they cross the wire 6-9-1-8 in the 9th running of the CA Cup Derby. Good luck everybody!