11/16/2011 4:51PM

Hollywood Park: Norvsky steps up to Grade 1 in Hollywood Turf Cup

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Benoit & Associates
Norvsky, winner of the Cal Cup Classic, will stretch out in the Hollywood Turf Cup.

California Cup Classic winner Norvsky will make his Grade 1 debut in Saturday’s $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup at Hollywood Park, a race that could determine how he is campaigned this winter.

Majority owner Bud Johnston and trainer Don Warren debated whether to start in the Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles on turf or the $250,000 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf Nov. 26. They have opted for Saturday’s race, which will be the longest of Norvsky’s career.

“We have entered in the Turf Cup, and I think that’s where we’re going to run him,” Warren said Wednesday. “I’m afraid the Citation might be tougher.”

Candidates for the Citation include John Johny Jak, winner of the Lure Stakes at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, and possibly Jeranimo, winner of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile last month.

Norvsky, a 5-year-old gelding, has won 5 of 16 starts and $392,844. He is in the midst of his best year, having won two of eight starts, including the California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar in the summer. In the Cal Cup Classic, over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 29, Norvsky closed from 1 1/2 lengths off the pace in the final furlong to win by a neck.

“About 100 yards before the finish, I wasn’t sure if he’d get it,” Warren said. “He’s slowly improved and beaten better horses over the year.”

If Norvsky runs well in the Turf Cup, he could be pointed to distance races in 2012. A defeat would likely lead to appearances in turf miles next year.

Norvsky is part of an expected field of seven in the Turf Cup, a group that includes Bourbon Bay, the multiple stakes winner who won the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita in January; Sanagas, winner of the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 20; and the mare Miss Match, who won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational in March but was ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.