Updated on 09/15/2011 2:22PM

Moving two races to grass proves popular


ARCADIA, Calif. - The decision by racing officials to move two of the three starter handicaps on Saturday's California Cup program from the main track to turf has resulted in larger fields than last year's.

The $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf is the day's first race and has drawn 11 entrants. Last year, the same race had seven starters. The $50,000 Starter Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf has 10 entrants in the fourth race compared to six starters last year.

The $50,000 Starter Sprint Handicap remains over 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track. It was also well supported, drawing 11 runners compared to six starters last year.

The Starter Handicap underwent a distance change, having previously been contested over 1 1/2 miles. But since the race is restricted to horses that had started for a claiming price of $40,000 or less in the current year, a marathon on the main track had a limited pool of candidates. The move to a shorter distance and a different surface expanded interest among owners and trainers, especially since many medium-priced claimers in California have turf experience.

Duncan likes Re Vote's chances

In the Distaff Starter Handicap, trainer Leonard Duncan has an ideal candidate in Re Vote, a 3-year-old filly who was claimed for $40,000 last March. In eight subsequent starts, Re Vote has won twice and finished third in the Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar in July.

Garrett Gomez, who was aboard for the two wins since the claim, rides on Saturday. Re Vote breaks from post 10, which is not a concern for Duncan.

"I don't think the post will matter," Duncan said. "If I was going to gun away from there, I'd be concerned. But I want him to take her back and settle and make a run."

Re Vote was fifth in an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf here on Oct. 8.

"She was blocked the other day and couldn't get out," Duncan said. "I think she'll be all right in this spot."

White Cloud, who won the 2000 Starter Handicap over 1 1/2 miles, is well-placed in this year's running on turf. He was stakes-placed at Pleasanton in July and is coming off a win in an allowance race/optional claimer on turf at Bay Meadows on Sept. 9.

In the Starter Sprint Handicap, Love that Lion, who won the Earlene McCabe Derby at Cal-Expo in Sacramento and the Governor's Cup Handicap at Fairplex Park, will attempt to stretch his winning streak to 6. A 3-year-old, Love that Lion has been claimed three times this year, and has won for each new owner.

Pick six appears tougher than usual

Love that Lion will be a popular selection on an otherwise difficult pick six that features a minimum guaranteed pool of $1 million. The bet covers races 5 through 10, all of which have at least nine entrants.

The fifth race, the Juvenile Fillies, pits Mama Mama, the runner-up in the California Sires Stakes on Sept. 27, against Fragrant Cloud, an impressive maiden winner for trainer Paco Gonzalez on Oct. 5. Fragrant Cloud will be ridden by Alex Solis, and is the likely favorite.

Meanwhile, the Distaff features an oversubscribed field of 18, and the race will be limited to 14 starters. Luck will play a tremendous role in the outcome of this race, run on the hillside turf course. Players will be forced to take a stand on logical contenders such as Jeweled Pirate or Fair Apache or spread with several contenders.

Feverish, a Grade 2 winner last winter, heads the Matron Handicap in the seventh race, but the Mile, the eighth race, is more contentious. Native Desert and Spinelessjellyfish finished in a dead heat in the California Turf Championship at Bay Meadows on Sept. 3 and retain their status as the Mile's top contenders. An outsider worth a look is Lily's Lad, who was stakes-placed over this course and distance last March in the Crystal Water Handicap.

The $250,000 Classic is not much easier, featuring Irisheyesareflying, who won the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, and Romanceishope, who won the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

There is not a mandatory payout in Saturday's pick six, leaving the possibility of a massive carryover for Sunday's program.

Machowsky offers a tip

Trainer Mike Machowsky would prefer to forget his last California Cup winner.

In 1999, Lazy Slusan won the Distaff Starter Handicap, but was claimed the following summer by trainer John Dolan. She subsequently became a multiple Grade 1 winner this year, a painful reminder for Machowsky.

On Saturday, Machowsky has two starters on the California Cup program, both longshots: Follow My Heineken in the Distaff Starter Handicap and Ben Saw San in the $250,000 Classic.

Machowsky has had success in the Classic in the past. In 1993, he started Native Boundary, who finished second to the heavily favored Best Pal.

Machowsky says Ben Saw San should not be dismissed even though he has never run in a stakes. A closer, the 5-year-old Ben Saw San has won 5 of 14 starts this year in allowance and claiming races.

"It will set up well," Machowsky said. "He's training lights out. My horse will go a mile and an eighth. some of the others will not."