01/22/2015 2:19PM

Alert Bay streaks into California Cup Turf Classic

Shigeki Kikkawa
Alert Bay won the Mathis Brothers Mile in December, his fourth straight victory.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Alert Bay was the best California-bred 3-year-old in 2014 who did not win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
In 2014, Alert Bay started the year as a maiden and finished as a five-time stakes winner. That record will make him the favorite in Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic at Santa Anita, a race that does not include Horse of the Year California Chrome.

Alert Bay is part of a field of 12 in the 1 1/8-mile Cal Cup Turf Classic.

“This race has been a target for a while,” trainer Blaine Wright said on Thursday.

The Turf Classic is the fifth and final stakes for California-breds on a 10-race California Cup program that begins at noon Pacific.

:: CALIFORNIA CUP: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s Santa Anita card live

Earlier in the day, there are eight 3-year-olds in the $250,000 California Cup Derby, a race California Chrome won in 2014. The other stakes are the $200,000 California Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on turf, the $150,000 California Cup Sprint over six furlongs, and the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint on the hillside turf course.

The California Cup Turf Classic field includes nine stakes winners. Aside from Alert Bay, they are: Alpine Luck, Awesome Return, Big Bane Theory, Boozer, G. G. Ryder, Patriots Rule, Stoney Fleece, and Tamarando. Alpine Luck, claimed for $16,000 in November, was supplemented to the race for $25,000 when entries were taken last weekend.

Also in the field are the stakes-placed Bench Light and Super Ability as well as Christopher Street.


Alert Bay
(Last 3 Beyers: 92-93-86)

◗ Alert Bay, who races for Peter Redekop, is already a stakes winner at this meeting, having won the $200,000 Mathis Bros. Mile on turf Dec. 26, a Grade 2 race.

◗ Alert Bay has won his last four starts, including two stakes wins at Hastings Park in British Columbia and the Zia Park Derby in New Mexico on Nov. 26.

◗ His last two wins impressed Wright.

“I thought he ran a hell of a race at Zia Park,” he said. “You could see how he’s progressing a little bit and wanting to be better.”

◗ In the Mathis Bros. Mile, Alert Bay closed from fifth in a field of 10 to win by a neck over Home Run Kitten.

“He showed a turn of foot last time,” Wright said. “Hopefully, he’s peaking. We know it will be a tough race with the older horses in there.”

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Saturday

Big Bane Theory
(Last 3 Beyers: 94-90-89)

◗ Big Bane Theory won the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile on turf here Oct. 4 and was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile here Oct. 31. After a dull fifth-place finish behind Kaigun in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar on Nov. 28, Big Bane Theory had a troubled trip here in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes on Jan. 3, racing in traffic through the stretch.

“He never really had a chance to run,” trainer Carla Gaines said. “He was pinned in the whole way and was beaten two lengths.”

G. G. Ryder
(Last 3 Beyers: 87-89-88)

◗ Second in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 30, G. G. Ryder will be part of the pace. The 4-year-old colt won the Alcatraz Stakes over a mile at Golden Gate Fields last May.

Awesome Return
(Last 3 Beyers: 89-89-85)

◗ In 2014, Awesome Return was fourth behind California Chrome in the California Derby and won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf here in April. Awesome Return won the restricted Let It Ride Stakes at a mile on turf in the autumn at Del Mar and was a fast-closing third in the Mathis Bros. Mile.

◗ An extra furlong in this race will help Awesome Return, who is trained by Mike Puype.

“His record is good at a mile, but he likes the flow and the rhythm of a longer race,” Puype said. “When you’ve got a come-from-behind style like him at a mile, everything has to work out for you. I’d rather run him at a mile and an eighth.”