Updated on 09/17/2011 11:42PM

McCann's Mojave takes Cal Cup Classic

Email
Horsephotos
McCann's Mojave ($8.60), Jose Valdivia Jr. up, wins the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Mike Willman is the director of publicity at Santa Anita, and has a popular weekend radio show on a Los Angeles station. But nothing quite gets him going like watching his homebred McCann's Mojave race, and he could barely find the words to describe his feelings after McCann's Mojave bravely fought off all challengers to take the $250,000 before 22,194 on Sunday at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

"I was numb," Willman, 49, said of his emotions as McCann's Mojave held off favored Desert Boom to win by a one length. "My mom and dad are here, my mom's first cousin." Willman paused to catch himself. "It's pretty emotional," he said.

McCann's Mojave ($8.60) grabbed the lead shortly after the start and clicked off fractions of 22.71 seconds, 46.47 seconds, and 1:09.88 for the first six furlongs. He turned back a mid-stretch bid from Desert Boom and was drawing away again at the finish. He won by one length over Desert Boom, who finished a length in front of Cheroot. McCann's Mojave was timed in 1:48.31 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track.

Jose Valdivia Jr. rode McCann's Mojave in place of Alex Solis, who was injured in an accident on Friday. Valdivia, however, had been the regular rider for McCann's Mojave before injuring his leg in an accident at Del Mar during the summer. He only returned to action on Friday.

"He only got off of him because of injury, and he didn't have the call originally for this race because we didn't think he'd be back in time for the Cal Cup," Willman said.

Though he has been one of the circuit's best sprinters for two full years, McCann's Mojave owned just one victory in eight starts since March 2004. In an attempt to shake him up, trainer Paddy Gallagher and former rider Eddie Delahoussaye, now a bloodstock agent, convinced Willman to stretch McCann's Mojave around two turns.

McCann's Mojave, 5, has now won seven times in 15 starts for Willman and Alex Nikki Hunt, who is listed as the co-owner and co-breeder of McCann's Mojave.

"He's named for Cecil McCann, a neighbor of mine at some property I have in Apple Valley," Willman said. "He waters my pine trees. The only payment he'll ever accept is Budweiser."

Jet West takes Sprint by a nose

The mid-race tactics of jockey Kent Desormeaux paid off four furlongs later when Jet West got up in the final jump to beat Areyoutalkintome by a nose in the $150,000 .

Jet West ($13) started from the rail, and was part of a vicious battle for the lead through the opening quarter-mile in 21.25 seconds. Desormeaux wisely eased him back, settled into a perfect spot behind the dueling leaders, then came again after a half in 43.76 seconds.

Areyoutalkintome, the defending race winner, grabbed the lead from stablemate Thor's Echo just inside the furlong pole, but Jet West wore him down while rallying along the rail. He was timed in 1:08.63 for six furlongs on the fast main track. Areyoutalkintome finished three-quarters of a length in front of Thor's Echo. Bilo, the favorite, was eighth, with Unfurl the Flag 10th in the field of 11.

"I needed every ounce of blood, and he gave it to me," Desormeaux said.

Ted H. West trains Jet West, 4, for owner Bruce Hochman. Jet West, by Western Fame, is now 3-for-3 since being claimed by Hochman for $62,500 at Del Mar in August.

Brite Maneuvers prevails in Juvenile

Brite Maneuvers, who has improved sharply since setting foot at Santa Anita this fall, won his third straight race at the Oak Tree meeting when he captured the $125,000 for 2-year-olds.

Brite Maneuvers ($24.20) clinched the training title at the meet for trainer Steve Knapp, who claimed Brite Maneuvers for $40,000 on behalf of the Howard Roberts Farm out of a maiden-claiming race at Hollywood Park in May. Brite Maneuvers lost his next four races, all against maiden-claimers, then broke through in his seventh lifetime start on Oct. 5, and followed that with a starter-allowance win on Oct. 19.

In the Juvenile, Brite Maneuvers stretched out around two turns for the first time. He bravely re-rallied under jockey Corey Nakatani after getting passed at mid-stretch by Direct Connect and won by three-quarters of a length in 1:45.23 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

Direct Connect crossed the wire second, but was rightly placed last by the stewards for causing an accident at mid-stretch. Direct Connect, with jockey Garrett Gomez, drifted in, and caused the tiring Irish Bar to clip heels and fall. Jockey Paul Atkinson tumbled into the path of his mount and appeared to be stepped on. He got up after a few minutes, then was taken to a local hospital for X-rays of his shoulder, which were negative.

Catouttathebag was placed second, with Moonlite Romance moved up to third.

Brite Maneuvers, a gelding by High Brite out of the Brocco mare Broccozola, has now won three times in nine starts.