11/04/2001 1:00AM

Irisheyesareflying takes California Cup


ARCADIA, Calif. - Saturday's California Cup program at Santa Anita was a day for the former claimers.

Four of the five winners of races worth $150,000 or more were acquired by their current owners through the claim box.

The biggest winners on Saturday were the partnership that owns Irisheyesareflying, the winner of the $250,000 California Cup Classic.

A 5-year-old, Irisheyesareflying was claimed for $50,000 in May 2000 by Lloyd Graham, Alice Taylor and trainer John Dolan and his wife, Cathy. The victory was worth $150,000 and was Irisheyesareflying's second consecutive stakes win, coming 10 weeks after he won the Grade 3 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

"I think this is the best race of his life," said Dolan.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Irisheyesareflying ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:49.14, outfinishing Figlio Mio before an ontrack crowd of 37,184. Vixen Storm, the longest shot in the field at 72-1, finished third, followed by an unlucky Romanceishope, who was blocked through the stretch along the inside.

Irisheyesareflying avoided that mess with a wide rally. Desormeaux kept Irishesyesareflying close throughout and moved four-wide on the second turn.

"Kent did a great job," Dolan said. "I told him, 'Don't get hooked into following too close.' It worked out perfect."

Figlio Mio snuck through along the inside to lead in midstretch, but Irishesyesareflying was moving best on the outside.

"Once we straightened up, my horse exploded," Desormeaux said.Irishesyesareflying has won 7 of 31 starts and $621,256. This year, he has earned $507,100.

*A race earlier, Native Desert, claimed for $32,000 in 1996, won the $175,000 California Cup Mile for the second time, displaying the courage that has enabled him to bank more than $1.5 million for owner Miguel Rubio.

Stuck in sixth-place in early stretch, Native Desert rallied between horses to beat Spinelessjellyfish by a head, finishing a mile on turf in 1:34.97.

"I had a beautiful trip," jockey Eddie Delahoussaye said. "If you move too soon, he hangs. The timing was just right."

An 8-year-old, Native Desert ($4.60) was making his fifth consecutive appearance in the California Cup. He was unplaced in the 1997 Sprint, third in the 1998 Mile, won the Mile in 1999 and was second in the same race last year.

"Horses come and horses go and he's still here," trainer Juan Garcia said.

"He's as good as ever, like he was when he was a 3-year-old.

Ringaskiddy, coupled with Native Desert, finished third. There were six horses within a length at the finish with Lily's Lad fourth, followed by Wolfwithintegrity, and Indiahoma. Golden General, who was seventh, had a troubled trip.

Garcia was not concerned in early stretch when Native Desert was behind several of those. "I was hoping he'd find room and wasn't worried about the other horses," he said. "I crossed my fingers. He doesn't like to win by much."

*In the $150,000 California Cup Matron, Cee Dreams took advantage of a

perfect trip to win her second stakes win of the year.

Ridden by Laffit Pincay, Jr., Cee Dreams ($9.40) raced in mid-pack to the final turn when she rallied around the fading pacesetters - Feverish and Jenna's Joy, who set torrid fractions of 22.35 and 45.31 seconds.

Cee Dreams ran 1 1-16 miles in 1:43.48, outfinishing Favorite Funtime, who was part of an entry sent off as the 2-1 favorite. Elaine's Angel finished third in the field of eight. Feverish, the 5-2 second choice, finished fifth, beaten seven lengths.

Cee Dreams, owned by a partnership and trained by Peter Eurton, was claimed for $20,000 in December 1999. A 5-year-old mare, Cee Dreams won the E.B. Johnsto Stakes at Fairplex Park in September.

*A yearlong plan for a start on California Cup Day worked to perfection when Jeweled Pirate won the $150,000 Distaff on the hillside turf course.

Ridden by Chris McCarron, Jeweled Pirate ($5.60) stalked the frontrunners until the field crossed over the main track where she took over. A 4-year-old, Jeweled Pirate won by 1 1-2 lengths over Warren's Whistle, who finished a neck in front of 118-1 Storm Kisu in the field of 14.

Jeweled Pirate finished about 6 1-2 furlongs in 1:12.72. Owned by Bob and Betty Irvin and trained by Ray Bell, Jeweled Pirate was given a seven-month break after winning the Pro or Con Handicap last February. She finished fourth in an allowance race last month as a prep to the California Cup.

*Ceeband, claimed for $62,500 last March, won his third stakes of 2001 in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint.

Ceeband got a perfect trip under jockey Matt Garcia. Fifth early, he was well behind the fast pace of 21.30 and 44.49 seconds set by Gibson County, but reached contention with a wide rally on the turn. Ceeband took the lead in midstretch and won by two lengths over Stormy Jack, running six furlongs in 1:08.82. Gibson County finished third in the field of six.

Ceeband is owned by CRK Stables and trained by John Sadler.

"He's good and sharp," Sadler said. "It's right up there with one of my better claims. He doesn't like this track as well as Hollywood so for him to win here he had to be pretty sharp."

Ceeband won the Grade 2 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap last July at Hollywood Park, beating subsequent Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Squirtle Squirt. Last month, Ceeband beat Gibson County in the California Sprint Championship at Bay Meadows.

*Owner Gordon Severson, and trainer Tony Locke scored their biggest career wins when Lady George ($32.20) upset Fragrant Cloud, the 3-5 favorite, in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The time of 1:45.84 for 1 1-16 miles was slow, but Lady George and Fragrant Cloud fought through an exciting stretch duel with Lady George prevailing by a head. Believe in Slew finished third in a field of 11, but was eight lengths behind Fragrant Cloud.

Ridden by Jose Silva, Lady George raced wide throughout and reached contention on the final turn. The Juvenile Fillies was her first stakes win in her seventh start.

*Pincay opened the day with a victory when Lil Sister Stich ($10.60) pulled away in early stretch of the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap. Lil Sister Stich finished 1 1-2 lengths in front of Super Tuesday, running 1 1-8 miles on turf in 1:47.32. Dazzling Diamonds finished third.

*In the $50,000 Starter Handicap, As We Know It ($13.40) won his fourth consecutive start, outfinishing defending champion White Cloud in a thrilling stretch run. As We Know It ran 1 1-4 miles on turf in 2:01. Bolchina's Prize finished third.

*In the $50,000 Starter Sprint Handicap, Desormeaux guided Rio Oro, a graded stakes winner in 1996, to a two-length win over Jersey Rebel, completing 5 1-2 furlongs in 1:02.45. Simony finished third.

A 6-year-old, Rio Oro, claimed for $10,000 last August, won the Grade 3 San Miguel Stakes here in 1998.