10/30/2007 11:00PM

Bold Chieftain bypasses Mile for Cal Cup Classic

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - The election results may never be known, but the four owners of Bold Chieftain made a surprise decision for their colt in Saturday's California Cup program at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

The quartet - owners Dwaine Hall, Ernest Langbein, Kenneth Robinson, plus trainer and part-owner Bill Morey Jr. - have decided to try the three-time stakes winner in Saturday's $250,000 California Cup Classic and not the $175,000 Mile on turf on the same day.

"We had a vote within our foursome," Morey said, explaining the decision. Asked what the vote was, Morey smiled, sheepishly.

"No matter where we go, it will be tough," he said. "I expect to be tough."

The decision to try the California Cup Classic with Bold Chieftain is something of a gamble. Bold Chieftain has won 6 of 12 starts and $315,775, but he has never faced a rival as accomplished as Lava Man, the multimillionaire who will be strongly favored in the Classic. Had Bold Chieftain started in the Mile, he may have been favored.

The Classic has drawn a field of 11, with Lava Man starting from post 10 in the 1 1/8-mile race. Bold Chieftain, the mount of Russell Baze, breaks from the outside. Celtic Dreamin, another top contender, starts from post 4.

The 11-race California Cup program features eight stakes, two starter handicaps, and one maiden race, all for statebreds.

Bold Chieftain, by Chief Seattle, won the California Dreamin' Handicap at Del Mar in August and was fourth in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sept. 22, his most recent start.

A start on Santa Anita's Cushion Track synthetic track presents another unknown variable. Bold Chieftain has never won on such a surface, but he was a game second on a similar surface at Hollywood Park during the summer.

Morey said he was encouraged that Bold Chieftain worked well on Golden Gate Fields's Tapeta synthetic surface last month.

"That was another factor that played into" starting in the Classic, Morey said.

Lava Man will start in the California Cup Classic under a cloud. After successfully defending his titles in the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup earlier this year, he has been sixth in his last two starts - the Pacific Classic, and the Oak Tree Mile on turf here Oct. 7.

Those losses have given trainer Rafael Becerra encouragement that Celtic Dreamin deserves to challenge Lava Man.

"Maybe we'll catch him on a bad day," Becerra said of Lava Man. "But he can be dangerous."

Owned by K.K. Sengara, Celtic Dreamin, 3, has won 5 of 6 starts, the most recent of which was his first stakes - a win by 5 1/2 lengths in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby at Hastings on Sept. 23.

"I think he's on top of his game," Becerra said.

Celtic Dreamin races near the front. He will be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez in the California Cup Classic. The presence of Celtic Dreamin and Lava Man at the front of the field will make for interesting tactics.

"He likes to fight," Becerra said of Celtic Dreamin. "I think I have to be close to Lava Man."

The Classic is the 10th race on the program, which begins at noon Pacific. Earlier on the program, Somethinaboutlaura will try for her 17th career win in the $150,000 Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Dancing Edie, the winner of the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap on Sept. 26, will be favored in the $150,000 Distaff at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

In the $150,000 Sprint at six furlongs, Bilo makes his first start since winning the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap going seven furlongs at Hollywood Park in July. He was sidelined during the summer with foot problems, trainer Marty Jones said.

One of the best betting races of the day is the $175,000 Mile. The field of 12 includes defending champion Epic Power, who drew the rail; the rapidly improving Joy's Comet; and 2007 stakes winners Big Bad Leroybrown, Jack's Wild, Now Victory, Unusual Suspect, and Zoning In.