10/10/2012 4:41PM

California Cup: Rousing Sermon back home against statebreds

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rousing Sermon will be looking for his first win of the year in Saturday's California Cup.

ARCADIA, Calif. – After three trips for major stakes in the East and Midwest, including an eighth in the Kentucky Derby, Rousing Sermon returns to the site of his biggest win for Saturday’s $175,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Rousing Sermon is looking for his first win of the year and first since the 2011 Cal Cup Juvenile.

“He’s been consistent,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “He hasn’t won, but we’ve run him in some pretty tough spots.”

Owned by Larry and Marianne Williams, Rousing Sermon is a winner of 2 of 13 starts and $477,000.

In his most recent start, he was fourth in the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 8. He entered the Super Derby off a second-place finish, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the $200,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for 3-year-old California-breds at Del Mar on Aug. 2. In that race over seven furlongs, Rousing Sermon led in the stretch and was caught late by Unusual Heatwave.

“We thought we were home free and got nailed at the wire,” Hollendorfer said.

In Saturday’s Cal Cup Classic over 1 1/16 miles, Rousing Sermon returns to statebred company and is part of a field of eight led by John Scott, the winner of the Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 1. Rousing Sermon will race without blinkers for the first time in 11 starts, since he was running in sprints as a 2-year-old.

The race will not include two top statebred runners, the 2012 stakes winners Norvsky and Unusual Heatwave.

Norvsky, the winner of the California Dreamin Handicap on turf at Del Mar in July, has been sidelined with a minor injury and is out for the year, trainer Don Warren said.

“He strained a check ligament and we’ll have to pass the race,” Warren said.

Unusual Heatwave, who won the Snow Chief Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in April, will start in the $150,000 Twilight Derby on turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

“We want to stay with 3-year-olds and stay on a surface we know,” trainer Alexis Barba said.

There were five stakes scheduled for the Cal Cup program, but the Distaff for fillies and mares on the hillside turf course drew enough entries for the race to be divided into two $100,000 divisions.

Willa B Awesome, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and two other stakes this year, makes her turf debut in the eighth race, the second division of the Distaff.

The richest races are the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies over 1 1/16 miles, each worth $250,000.