10/30/2002 12:00AM

Cal Cup a prep for Continental Red


ARCADIA, Calif. - The $1.325 million California Cup at Santa Anita has typically been a season-ending goal for owners and trainers, as well as a chance to prove that their statebreds are among the best in the state.

This year, owner Wes Fitzpatrick and trainer Ian Jory are taking a different approach. They are starting Continental Red in Saturday's $250,000 California Cup Classic as a springboard to a newly created $1 million race on dirt in the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park in January, a series that pits Florida-breds against California-breds.

"If we can beat this group, why not run for $1 million in Florida?" Jory said. "He's never trained any better than he's been now."

Entries were taken on Wednesday for Saturday's 10-race California Cup, which features eight stakes and two $50,000 starter handicaps. The program, which begins at noon, drew the largest attendance of the autumn Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita last year.

Continental Red is one of 10 entered in the Classic, which will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Already proven on turf, the 6-year-old Contintental Red will return to the main track for the first time since he finished fifth in an optional claimer on April 1, 2001. He last won on the main track in an allowance race for California-breds at Santa Anita on Dec. 30, 1999.

Earlier this year, Continental Red won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap. He finished third in the Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 21 in his last start.

Continental Red would have been a top candidate in the Carleton Burke Handicap on turf last weekend, but was held out in favor of Saturday's Classic. "It was tough to do that," Jory said.

Continental Red could get an ideal trip stalking the pace in the Classic, chasing likely pacesetters Eric da Bomb and Hot Market.

"I think he has a great chance," Jory said. "It's our race to lose."

- Aside from the Classic, there are seven additional races worth $100,000 or more to be run on Saturday. In the second race, Super High, the winner of three turf stakes this year, will try to transfer her success to the dirt in the $150,000 Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The 3-year-old Super High faces seven others, including Elaine's Angel, who was fifth behind Azeri in the Lady's Secret Handicap on Oct. 2.

- Excessive Barb and Crackup, the respective first- and third-place finishers in the Cavonnier Stakes on Oct. 4, are leading contenders for the $125,000 Juvenile for 2-year-old colts and geldings at 1 1/16 miles.

- The newly created $100,000 Distance Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf drew 11 runners, but lacks a standout. Sunset Serenade, the winner of an allowance race on Oct. 4, starts from post 3. Calzada Kid, third in the Melair Stakes on Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park last April, returns to Santa Anita following a troubled sixth at Bay Meadows on Oct. 14. The race is the start of a pick six wager that features a $1 million guaranteed pool.

- Stormy Jack, second in the 2001 California Cup Sprint, is one of three runners carrying high weight of 119 pounds in Saturday's $150,000 running. He faces Rio Oro, who was fifth in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap, and El Dorado Shooter, who has been stakes-placed twice this year in northern California. Rio Oro is winless in seven starts since the 2001 California Cup Starter Sprint Handicap.

Overflow turf fields

Two turf races - the $175,000 Mile and the $150,000 Distaff on the hillside turf course - drew oversubscribed fields and will be limited to 14 starters for safety reasons.

The Distaff has 17 fillies and mares, including Channing Way, the 120-pound highweight who is seeking her fifth straight stakes win. The Mile drew 15 runners. Spinelessjellyfish, second to Native Desert last year, carries high weight of 120 pounds. Ninebanks, the winner of the California Turf Championship at Bay Meadows on Sept. 2, drew post 14.

- There are three stakes winners in the $125,000 Juvenile Fillies - Summer Wind Dancer, Miss Nicolie, and Amber Hills - and they have drawn the inside three posts in the field of 13 fillies.

Summer Wind Dancer won the Cover Gal Stakes at this meeting, Miss Nicolie won the Generous Portion at Del Mar, and Amber Hills won the Black Swan Stakes at Fairplex Park.

- The program also includes two $50,000 starter handicaps for former claimers. In the first race, seven were entered in the $50,000 starter handicap at 1 1/2 miles. In the Starter Sprint Handicap at six furlongs, Stoney is a standout against 12 others. He won the California Cup Sprint Championship at Bay Meadows on Oct. 5.