12/16/2010 3:07PM

Gourmet Dinner out to pad bankroll in CashCall Futurity

Coady Photography
Gourmet Dinner, Sebastian Madrid up, wins the Delta Downs Jackpot.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Calder Race Course is fairly far south of Cape Canaveral, but this fall, it has been a launching pad for 2-year-old success. Awesome Feather came out of Calder and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, likely securing a year-end championship. Gourmet Dinner made his first four starts at Calder, then last month won the Delta Downs Jackpot.

The Delta Jackpot victory gave Gourmet Dinner more than enough earnings to qualify for next spring’s Kentucky Derby, but there’s more potential riches to plunder before this year is out. Gourmet Dinner was sent west to Hollywood Park by owner Bill Terrill and trainer Steve Standridge for the Grade 1, $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Saturday.

“He came out of his last race great, and we felt like he was going to be one of the top choices in a Grade 1 race, so we had to do it,” Standridge said Thursday morning.

Moments later, Gourmet Dinner, under jockey Sebastian Madrid, got a feel for the Hollywood Park strip, breezing through the lane, from the quarter pole to a furlong past the wire, in 38.80 seconds. Madrid let Gourmet Dinner roll a bit leaving the pole, but had him under a pull at the wire and barely let him gallop out. According to Terrill, he did the same thing at Delta Downs, but no time was recorded there.

“I just wanted him to get a feel of the track,” Standridge said.

In order for Gourmet Dinner to add another lucrative paycheck to his account, he will have to defeat nine other 2-year-olds, most notably the red-hot Comma to the Top, who has won four straight races, and J P’s Gusto, the Del Mar Futurity winner. Based on current form, though, Gourmet Dinner fits. He ran his best race yet at Delta Downs, winning by 2 1/4 lengths with a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure while wearing blinkers for the first time. The Cash Call Futurity, like the Delta Jackpot, is at 1 1/16 miles.

“Blinkers on and the track. The track was a little tighter than Calder, not as deep, and he liked it,” Standridge said. “He really exploded in that race.”

Comma to the Top has won the Real Quiet on the main track and the Generous on turf in his last two starts here. He drew the outside post in the field of 10, and figures to be on or near the lead, having won his last four in front-running fashion.

“I’m elated with the outside post, because it gives us options,” Peter Miller, who trains Comma to the Top, said at his Hollywood Park barn on Thursday morning. “There’s no one who can pressure us from the outside. If someone wants to send, we can sit off them. But I think we’re going to make the lead.”

This will be the 10th start of the year for Comma to the Top, and his fifth race in 2 1/2 months.

“He thrives on activity,” Miller said. “The more you do, the better he does.”

J P’s Gusto has done his best running when forwardly placed, and figures to be close to Comma to the Top in the early going. He was second here in the Norfolk on Oct. 2 before a disappointing try in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Industry Leader is certain to attract attention. Though he is making only his third start, and his first around two turns, he has displayed plenty of promise. He was a sharp debut winner here on Oct. 31 during the Oak Tree meeting, then was second to Premier Pegasus in the Hollywood Prevue on Nov. 20.

High Level Jeff is seeking to improve upon a fifth-place finish in the Prevue.

The well-traveled Ronin Dax, based here with trainer Bobby Troeger, gets to make his first start at his home track. He was an eye-catching debut winner on turf at Del Mar, then was fifth in the Summer Stakes on turf at Woodbine and fifth in the Iroquois Stakes on dirt at Churchill Downs. He is removing blinkers for this race.

“I want to get him covered up. I want to take him back and make one run,” Troeger said. “I’m taking the blinkers off hoping that will help get him settled.”

Clubhouse Ride, like Comma to the Top making his 10th start, was a distant third in the Delta Jackpot. Rustler Hustler comes off a pair of wins on turf at Monmouth and Belmont. Riveting Reason was third in the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk as a maiden, then beat maidens in his last start. Slammer Time comes off a win in the California Cup Juvenile.

The Futurity is the ninth race on a 10-race card that begins at 12:30 p.m. Pacific.