11/02/2007 11:00PM

Bold Chieftain wins; Lava Man sixth

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Bold Chieftain won the richest race of his career in Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Classic at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita, easily defeating a fading legend in the 6-year-old gelding Lava Man and holding off a late run from the promising 3-year-old Celtic Dreamin.

The Classic was one of eight major stakes for California-breds on the card.

Bold Chieftain rallied from fifth to win by a half-length over Celtic Dreamin, who lost for only the second time in his seven-race career. Ridden by Russell Baze, Bold Chieftain ($13.80) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.23. Seminole Native, a 32-1 outsider, finished third in the field of 10.

Lava Man, the winner of $5.2 million and the 8-5 favorite, led in early stretch, but faded to finish sixth, his third consecutive loss. After the race, trainer Doug O’Neill said Lava Man will be turned out at a local farm for an undetermined period.

Bold Chieftain stalked pacesetter Cheroot through early fractions of 22.80 and 46.15 seconds. A 4-year-old colt, Bold Chieftain rallied between horses in early stretch to overtake Lava Man before the eighth pole. Baze said he knew that Celtic Dreamin was making ground, but was not sure of the margin through the final strides.

“I wasn’t looking to see if anyone was coming,” Baze said. “I was all out at that point.”

Bold Chieftain is trained by William Morey, Jr. In his 13-race career, Bold Chieftain has won 7 races, 4 stakes, and earned $465,775.

Mile: Unusual Suspect mows 'em down

Unusual Suspect won his second stakes of the autumn in the $175,000 Mile, rallying from eighth in the final half-mile to score a convincing victory.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, Unusual Suspect ($27.20) was timed in 1:33.89, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Epic Power.

Unusual Suspect raced on the rail early, stalking the leaders in sixth place. Talamo moved the 3-year-old colt to the outside in early stretch, got an immediate response, and they took the lead in the final furlong.

Epic Power, the defending champion and 3-1 favorite, finished second after leading briefly in the stretch. Swift Winds finished third in the field of 11. Jack’s Wild, another top contender, finished fourth.

Owned by Barry, David and Dyan Abrams, Unusual Suspect has won 5 of 18 starts and $379,136. He won the Bay Meadows Derby in September.

Sprint: Bilo fresh and fast

Bilo returned from a four-month layoff to win the $150,000 Sprint, three days after the death of his owner, Eddie Nahem, from liver failure.

Bilo took the lead shortly after the start of the Sprint. He repelled early challenges from Johnny Eves and Wind Water and a threat in the stretch from Bonfante to win by a half-length.

Ridden by Talamo, Bilo ran six furlongs in 1:07.87 after setting early fractions of 21.28 and 43.35 seconds on a track that played fast.

Trained by Marty Jones, Bilo was making his first start since winning the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park in early July. Bilo has won 7 of 15 starts and $524,036.

Nahem, who raced under the name King Edward, bred Bilo, a 7-year-old gelding by Bertrando. Bertrando had three winners on Saturday’s 11-race California Cup program.

Juvenile: Sierra Sunset all the way

Sierra Sunset did not care for Cushion Track at Hollywood Park in July, but the Santa Anita version suited him better Saturday, when he scored a front-running victory in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile.

Sierra Sunset ($15.60) turned in the worst performance of his career when ninth of 11 in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship in July. He then returned to the Bay Area, where he won the Bay Meadows Juvenile on Sept. 15. Sierra Sunset came into the Cal Cup Juvenile off an eight-week layoff, was stretching out around two turns for the first time, and needed to prove his aptitude on Cushion Track. He cleared every hurdle.

Russell Baze rode Sierra Sunset, who held off 9-5 favorite My Redeemer to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:41.65 for 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. Harlene finished six lengths farther back in third in the field of 13.

Sierra Sunset, a 2-year-old colt by Bertrando, has now won 3 times in 7 starts. Jeff Bonde trains Sierra Sunset for a partnership that includes George Schmitt.

Distance: Imagine holds off Rockella

Imagine rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes in September to win the $100,000 Distance Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Imagine ($4.40) took the lead with a two-wide move on the final turn and held off a threat from Rockella in early stretch to win by three-quarters of a length. Imagine was timed in 2:01.90. Rockella finished four lengths in front of 23-1 Easy Obsession in the field of nine.

Special Heather, the defending champion, set the pace for the first six furlongs before fading to finish seventh.

Imagine is trained by John Shirreffs. A winner of 5 of 9 starts and $276,059, Imagine, a 4-year-old filly by Giant's Causeway, is owned by breeders Marty and Pam Wygod, who also bred Rockella.

Distaff: Gentle Charmer upsets at $110

Gentle Charmer, the second-longest shot in the field, pulled one of the biggest upsets of the Oak Tree meeting in the $150,000 Distaff.

A 5-year-old Bertrando mare, Gentle Charmer ($110) rallied wide through the stretch to catch Lady Gamer in the final sixteenth and win by 1 3/4 lengths, scoring the first stakes win of her career.

Ridden by Kyle Kaenel, Gentle Charmer ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:12.31. Ninth on the hillside, Gentle Charmer was still eighth with a furlong remaining.

Excessiveobsession finished third, with Dancing Edie, the 6-5 favorite, finishing sixth in the field of 10 fillies and mares.

Gentle Charmer has won 7 of 29 starts and $344,314. She is owned by Curt and Lila Lanning and trained by Ed Moger Jr. Gentle Charmer, bred by the Wygods, was last in the 2005 Cal Cup Distaff.

Matron: Romance Is Diane rebounds

It was at last year's California Cup that Romance Is Diane served notice of her promise, winning the Juvenile Fillies. A month later, she captured the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. She was winless in five starts since then, though. But on Saturday, she found a perfect tonic in another Cal Cup race.

Utilizing front-running tactics, Romance Is Diane ($12.60) powered home 6 1/4 lengths best in the $150,000 Matron, a race in which 6-5 favorite Somethinaboutlaura faltered to finish fifth.

Bai and Bai ran on for second, three lengths in front of Purrfectly Fitting and Swiss Current, who finished in a dead heat for third.

Romance Is Diane, a 3-year-old daughter of In Excess, was facing older horses for the first time. Starting from the outside post in the field of eight, she uncharacteriscally made the lead, set strong fractions, and never slowed down under jockey Michael Baze. She completed 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track in 1:40.38, the fastest time of the meet at that distance.

Mike Mitchell trains Romance Is Diane for owner Senji Nishimura.

Juvenile Fillies: Runforthemoneybaby romps

Runforthemoneybaby ($4.20), who tipped her ability with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes earlier this meet, cruised to an easy 5 1/2-length victory in the $125,000 Juvenile Fillies.

Runforthemoneybaby only had to run about a quarter-mile to do it. She was trapped behind the leaders, while on the rail, for most of the race. But she was finally able to get room as the field turned into the stretch, and she asserted herself in an instant, vaulting from fourth to first in a sixteenth of a mile under the meet's leading rider, Tyler Baze.

Always in Style rallied from last in the eight-horse field to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Shes a Real Keeper. Cantina's Rose, the 8-5 second choice, faded to sixth after setting the early pace.

Runforthemoneybaby was timed in 1:42.15 for 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. The victory was her second in five starts. Jeff Mullins trains Runforthemoneybaby, a 2-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat, for owners Michael Bello and Larry and Marianne Williams.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman