10/12/2004 11:00PM

Calkins Road recapturing his form

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Benoit & Associates
Calkins Road (right), winning the 2002 Cal Cup Classic at 10-1, tries for another upset in Saturday's running.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The erratic career of Calkins Road has been on an upswing in recent months, just in time for Saturday's $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

In 2002, Calkins Road pulled a 10-1 upset in the California Cup Classic, the final win of a campaign that included a victory in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-old statebreds at Hollywood Park that spring.

Last year, Calkins Road had a dreadful season for owner-breeders Tom and Debbie Shapiro. Calkins Road was winless in four starts and failed to earn a dollar. In the California Cup Classic, he finished seventh.

This year, Calkins Road has rebounded. He won an optional claimer against open company at Santa Anita in February, lost two stakes, but won the Joseph Grace Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa on Aug. 7.

The lack of a recent start or a win on this circuit in eight months has made Calkins Road a longshot for Saturday's race, but trainer John Shirreffs says Calkins Road is ready. Shirreffs adds that the lack of a recent start does not concern him.

"I want to see a repeat of 2002," Shirreffs said. "Where are you going to run? Pomona? The opportunity just wasn't there."

Shirreffs does not dwell on Calkins Road's disappointing season in 2003.

"He got good for a few races and then tailed off," Shirreffs said. "It was nothing that you could put your finger on."

Saturday's California Cup Classic drew a field of 10. Calkins Road drew post 5, which should not make a major difference with his closing style. The hard part, which is up to jockey Rene Douglas, is to get Calkins Road involved in the second half of the race, Shirreffs said.

"Calkins Road doesn't run too hard the first part," he said. "He needs a strong rider because you have to get him to the race. He needs to be kept busy."

Cal Cup card tops $1.3 million

The Classic is the eighth race on a 10-race program that features $1.3 million in purses for statebreds.

The program has drawn 98 entrants. There is a guaranteed pick six pool of $1 million for the fifth through 10 races, all of which have drawn 10 or more entrants.

The favorite for Classic will be Excess Summer, who finished second in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic last January and was second in the Governor's Cup Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs at Fairplex Park last month.

The race has drawn the first three runners from the 2003 Classic: Tizbud, Kedington, and Comman-der's Flag. Tizbud has not started since the 2003 Classic last November because of a shin injury.

Dream of Summer goes two turns

Having won consecutive graded stakes for female sprinters this summer, Dream of Summer's career will go in a different direction Saturday. She makes her first start around two turns in the $150,000 California Cup Matron.

The Matron is not an easy spot to try something new. There are only six entrants, but the field includes Summer Wind Dancer, the winner of the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap; Yearly Report, who won the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks and three other stakes this year; and Royally Chosen, who won the B. Thoughtful Stakes earlier this year at Hollywood Park.

Dream of Summer won the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park and the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar. She drew post 2 in the Matron, which is run over 1 1/16 miles. Mike Smith has the mount.

"I had to try it sometime," said trainer Juan Garcia. "Mike thinks she can go the distance. From now on, nothing will be easy. She's out of all her [allowance] conditions."

Owned and bred by Jim Weigel, Dream of Summer has won her last four starts, all between six and seven furlongs on the main track.

Garcia tried something different with Dream of Summer once before. He tried her in a turf sprint at Del Mar in the summer of 2003, but she did not finish.

"I ran her on the turf one time, and she jumped like a goat," Garcia said.

The disappointment of that race is not preventing Garcia from trying the Matron.

"If she can run a distance, she will be real tough," he said.

Greek Sun set for Oak Tree Derby

Greek Sun, the winner of two turf stakes in Southern California, will start in Sunday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby, trainer Bobby Frankel said. Greek Sun will be ridden by Edgar Prado and was scheduled to arrive in California from New York on Wednesday.

Owned by Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Greek Sun won the Hill Rise Stakes here last December and the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park in June. He later finished second in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August and was last of eight in the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park last month.

The Oak Tree Derby is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf and will have a solid field. The probable starters include Borrego, Greek Sun, Hendrix, Imperialism, Laura's Lucky Boy, On the Acorn, Terroplane, and We All Love Aleyna.

Borrego was second in the Super Derby last month, and Laura's Lucky Boy won the Will Rogers Stakes at Hollywood Park in May.

Nakatani talks continue

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who recently lost an appeal of a 30-day suspension for causing interference in a turf race at Santa Anita last March, continues to ride while his attorney, Matt Geragos, holds discussions with the California Horse Racing Board regarding the penalty.

Nakatani's suspension was supposed to take effect last Friday and continue through Nov. 7, with the exception of Oct. 30, Breeders' Cup Day at Lone Star Park. Nakatani has ridden every racing day since last Friday and will ride through this weekend, according to his agent, Nick Cosato. Nakatani received a temporary stay last week in Los Angeles Superior Court allowing him to continue riding.

"We're working this out with the CHRB," Geragos said. "Hopefully, I'll know something more in the next 48 hours."

Geragos did not disclose the nature of the talks with the CHRB. There is a possibility that Nakatani could seek further action in Los Angeles Superior Court in an effort to continue riding.