10/03/2008 12:00AM

Babs Moossa faces new challenge


With four straight wins, including a pair of stakes by narrow margins, the grit of Babs Moossa cannot be denied. But he has yet to run beyond six furlongs, has never run a Beyer Speed Figure faster than 78, and added front leg wraps for his last win. All that makes him a vulnerable short-priced runner when he stretches out to 1 1/16 miles and faces 12 rivals Sunday in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile, the final event on the 11-race Cal Cup card at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Babs Moossa ran in claiming races his first three starts, once as cheaply as $12,500. That race, though, was where he began his current winning streak, which includes consecutive stakes victories at Del Mar against California-breds in the Graduation and I'm Smokin stakes.

His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, on Friday said Babs Moossa "didn't show a lot early" in his career, but then "came to himself and started doing better."

The bar is raised again Sunday, though, as he goes around two turns.

"I think he'll get two turns," Hollendorfer said. "He can be tactical."

A tempting alternative to Babs Moossa is Escalon, who beat Cal-bred maidens in his debut at Del Mar and then turned in a respectable effort when sixth of 11 in the Del Mar Futurity. The strength of the Futurity was confirmed last weekend, when Street Hero (third in the Futurity) and Midshipman (the Futurity winner) ran one-two in the Norfolk Stakes.

Escalon is by Spanish Steps, a son of Unbridled.

"He's been training really well," Doug O'Neill, who trains Escalon for Joe LaCombe, said Friday morning. "He's always acted like the added ground wouldn't be a problem. In our minds, speaking for the LaCombe family, we don't think he ran all that bad in the Del Mar Futurity. The talent's there. We just need to get a good trip."

O'Neill said Escalon has shown promise from the start.

"He's one of those we've always been excited about, but we didn't want to get too pumped up," O'Neill said. "A few weeks ago, we thought he would be one of our livest runners for the Cal Cup, and we're hoping it turns out that way Sunday."

There are several others in the Cal Cup Juvenile capable of winning with their best effort.

Triumphant Flight has run well in all three of his starts. After defeating maidens at Hollywood Park, he lost by a nose to Babs Moossa in the Graduation, then scored a three-length victory in the Barretts Juvenile. With his sharp speed, Triumphant Flight could get loose on the lead and prove a formidable front-running threat.

Control Seeker closed gamely to finish second, beaten just a head by Babs Moossa, in the I'm Smokin. Lucky Primo was third in that race, beaten less than one length.

Danny Q ran so well in a debut maiden win at Fairplex that he was wheeled back just eight days later and ran third in the Barretts Juvenile behind Triumphant Flight.

J P Jammer was a stylish winner against Cal-bred maidens in his lone start on Aug. 30 at Del Mar. Star Redeemer is still a maiden, but he was beaten only a half-length by J P Jammer.