06/20/2008 12:00AM

Gold Cup an ambitious target for McCann's Mojave


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When McCann's Mojave won the Grade 3 Berkeley Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on May 26, trainer Steve Specht immediately knew his next goal - the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park next Saturday.

The margin of victory, 3 1/2 lengths, was the widest of McCann's Mojave's 34-race career, which includes 12 wins and earnings of $1,468,565.

"Specht was adamant that we need to take a shot," owner-breeder Mike Willman said. "He really ran well the other day."

Specht had simple reasons for his confidence, beginning with the Gold Cup purse: "It's a lot of damn money, it's a short field, and the horse is coming off a big race."

An 8-year-old California-bred horse by Memo, McCann's Mojave will make his 13th consecutive appearance in a stakes in the Gold Cup, and his first in a Grade 1 since a fourth-place finish in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March 2007. In that race, McCann's Mojave was beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Lava Man, another California-bred. Lava Man has won the last three runnings of the Gold Cup, but his participation this year was doubtful as of Friday, according to trainer Doug O'Neill.

While McCann's Mojave will be a longshot in the Gold Cup, neither Specht nor Willman is worried about the race distance of 1 1/4 miles.

"The way he ran in the Big Cap last year, we're not concerned about the mile and a quarter," said Willman, the director of publicity at Santa Anita.

The Berkeley Stakes is McCann's Mojave's only win in four starts this year, which includes a troubled fifth in the Sensational Star Handicap at Santa Anita in April and a 10th in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita in January, a race Willman dismisses.

McCann's Mojave won the 2007 Sunshine Millions Classic for California-breds and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park in a 33-1 upset. The race remains the richest win of his career, which includes a victory in the $250,000 California Cup Classic in 2005.

McCann's Mojave has even beaten expected Gold Cup favorite Heatseeker in the past. McCann's Mojave was fourth in the Grade 3 Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita last fall, while Heatseeker was only seventh.

The result does not leave Willman expecting a handy victory from McCann's Mojave in what will be arguably the toughest race of his career.

"I know he's a different horse now," Willman said of Heatseeker. "Our horse has earned the shot."

Modest expectations for Barretts sale

The Barretts summer sale of horses of racing age and 2-year-olds in training in Pomona on Tuesday is not expected to reach the record levels of the 2007 sale.

Last year's auction featured a dispersal of Meadow Creek Farm, which was led by the sale of the

3-year-old Laddies Poker for $525,000. Overall, 89 horses were sold for a record gross of $1,680,200, a gain of 48 percent, and a record average of $18,879, an increase of 99.7 percent.

Tuesday's sale features a main catalog of 94 horses, and a supplemental catalog of 30 horses. There is a training preview for the 2-year-olds on Monday.

"This is just a service market," Barretts president Gerald McMahon said. "It's kind of a meat-and-potatoes sale."

The horses of racing age include Leesider, who won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds at Hollywood in 2007, but has been running in claiming races recently. The 2-year-olds include the California-bred filly Aromatica, the winner of a two-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita in March, who was sixth against males in the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes on May 25.