01/26/2017 11:56AM

Ann Arbor Eddie could find launch pad in Cal Cup Derby

Email
Benoit & Associates
Ann Arbor Eddie wins the King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos Race Course.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The temptation to start the 2-year-old stakes winner Ann Arbor Eddie in a lucrative graded stakes for 3-year-olds can wait. The $250,000 California Cup Derby for statebreds at Santa Anita on Saturday is too rich to pass.

The Cal Cup Derby is the first of five six-figure stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds in the state between Saturday and late summer. Ann Arbor Eddie, the winner of the King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos last month, and his rivals in the Cal Cup Derby at 1 1/16 miles could easily stay in the comfort of the statebred division this year while avoiding their tougher rivals in open company.

“Being a Cal-bred, it’s hard not to look at a California-bred stakes campaign,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “There is a lot of money in those races.”

A big performance Saturday will make the Triple Crown preps an appealing option, just to learn where a prospect rates in the greater picture. California Chrome won the 2014 Cal Cup Derby and his next four starts, including the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes, en route to his first Horse of the Year title.

Ann Arbor Eddie has run well in open company, having finished third to Mastery in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at seven furlongs at Del Mar in November in his stakes debut. Mastery is the top-rated 3-year-old in California this winter.

In the Cal Cup Derby, Ann Arbor Eddie is part of a field of six and is one of two stakes winners. California Diamond, second in the Kong Glorious and Bob Hope Stakes, is Ann Arbor Eddie’s main rival. California Diamond won four sprint stakes in 2016.

KEY CONTENDERS

Ann Arbor Eddie, by Square Eddie
Last 3 Beyers: 82-81-64

◗ Owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, Ann Arbor Eddie dueled for the lead with California Diamond to the final furlong of the King Glorious at a mile before drawing away to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

“I was really impressed,” O’Neill said. “California Diamond is a machine. They eyeballed each other, and Ann Arbor Eddie pulled away. He’s pretty solid.

“He’s shown he can run two turns.”

◗ Ann Arbor Eddie needs an exceptional performance Saturday to be considered for a race such as the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles against open company March 11.

“The door is open for the opportunity,” O’Neill said.

California Diamond, by Harbor the Gold
Last 3 Beyers: 80-84-78

◗ Owned by Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, California Diamond started around two turns for the first time in the King Glorious Stakes, a result that left trainer Peter Miller disappointed. Miller said he approached the race with the wrong tactics, asking jockey Kent Desormeaux to reserve some of California Diamond’s energy.

“We can’t choke him down,” Miller said. “It was probably bad instructions from me. We’ll let him run out of there. I think he got a little discouraged.”

◗ Miller said he is unsure whether California Diamond is best suited to sprints or can be effective around two turns.

“I don’t think we’ve got a real good read on it from that race,” he said of the King Glorious. “I think this time we’ll get a better indication of his distance ability. The jury is out.”

Hot Smoke, by Unusual Heat
Last 3 Beyers: 78-70-76

◗ Hot Smoke will benefit if the pace is strong. Fourth in the King Glorious in his first start at a mile, Hot Smoke has frequently shown a late kick. He was second to California Diamond in the Golden State Juvenile at seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.