11/04/2005 12:00AM

Now back home, Desert Boom stands tall

Bill Vassar
Desert Boom will be the dominant favorite in Sunday's Cal Cup Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Few of the 117 statebred horses entered to run Sunday at Santa Anita exemplify the spirit of the California Cup more than the big, good-looking gelding Desert Boom.

"He's one of those cool professionals; he's a horse you can do anything with," trainer Art Sherman said.

On Sunday, the 5-year-old will be favored for the biggest payday of his 35-race career when he starts as the dominant favorite in the $250,000 California Cup Classic.

- by the $1,000 stallion Boomerang - was not supposed to be this good, which makes him perfect for California Cup XVI. The $1.3 million, all-California-bred program is dominated each autumn by former claimers who exceeded expectations, and others virtually destined to the program because of their pedigrees. Sires represented by leading Cal Cup contenders this year are In Excess, General Meeting, Bertrando, Siberian Summer, Benchmark, High Brite, and Cee's Tizzy.

Eleven races will be held Sunday - eight stakes, two starter allowance races for claiming horses, and one maiden race. Bettors lucky enough to nail the pick six on races 6-11 will share in the $1 million guaranteed pool with a mandatory payout, because Sunday is closing day of the Oak Tree meet. First post Sunday is 11:15 a.m. Pacific.

For many pick six bettors, Desert Boom will be a singleton. Claimed late last year for $32,000 by Sherman and owner Bob Bone, the gelding has won 6 of 10 while facing graded stakes horses just about everywhere.

"He's shipped all over - Seattle, Minnesota, Chicago," Sherman said. "He's a frequent flier."

He also is the best horse in the race, and dropping in class from a good third in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. The Classic is race 9 on the 11-race card, and Desert Boom is among a handful of Cal Cup favorites that will be tough to beat. Others are not so secure.

In race 2, the $125,000 Cal Cup Juvenile for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, Irish Bar enters as a legitimate favorite. The only route winner in the field, Irish Bar's main rival is the late-running sprint stakes winner Direct Connect.

In race 3, the $100,000 Cal Cup Distance Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf, highweight Moscow Burning is vulnerable. A former claimer who became a Grade 2 winner, Moscow Burning won the 2003 Distance Handicap, but Sunday is her first start since a fractured pelvis and a six-month layoff. Candy Factory and Del Mar Ticket are her main foes.

In race 4, the $150,000 Cal Cup Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, Grade 1 winner Dream of Summer will be favored over Grade 2 winner House of Fortune. Lightly raced Proposed is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Silent Sighs, and she figures off a good allowance victory last month.

In race 6, the $125,000 Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles, stakes winners Malley Girl and Sierra Sweetie face stakes-placed Bless Idbyour Name and Bai and Bai.

In race 7, the $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint at six furlongs, highweight Unfurl the Flag is vulnerable off two subpar races at Del Mar and Belmont. Last year's winner Areyoutalkintome and speedball Bilo figure in the mix.

In race 8, the $150,000 Cal Cup Distaff at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, Valentine Dancer is off form and vulnerable trying a turf sprint for the first time. She will have to catch front-runner Tempting Date over a downhill course that has favored speed all meet.

Race 9 is the Cal Cup Classic at 1 1/8 miles. In addition to standout Desert Boom, the field includes sprinter , Deputy Doc Renzie, Mr. Joe C, and Carano also entered.

In race 10, the $175,000 Cal Cup Mile on turf, El Don will try to catch front-running stakes sprinter Exceeding. Race 1 is a maiden race; races 5 and 10 are starter allowance races.

To win the Classic, Desert Boom will have to catch Carano and Deputy Doc Renzi. Carano is a 4-year-old full brother to Valentine Dancer, and trainer Craig Lewis could have gone in the $175,000 Mile but "for $250,000 we decided to go here." Carano is a headstrong gelding who will battle for the lead with allowance winner Deputy Doc Renzi and sprinter McCann's Mojave.

There is no shortage of speed, a scenario that sits well with Desert Boom's trainer Sherman.

"He's a horse that can lay third or fourth and feel comfortable - he can stalk them," Sherman said. "He's become very professional.

"He's run with some good horses, and he's been very consistent all year. He's coming into the race good. The timing's right. He likes six or seven weeks between races. I'm looking for a big effort. He's the only horse by Boomerang I've ever seen that can run like this."

Desert Boom has won 14 of 35 starts.

Carano has raced only six times, winning three. In his last start Sept. 30, he pulled hard on his rider, appeared beaten into the lane, but was up late for a dead heat.

"I hope to get him back off the pace a little bit; he's very unseasoned and high-strung," Lewis said, adding that in his last race, "I think he learned something."

As for Deputy Doc Renzi, trainer Vladimir Cerin expects an effort similar to the 98 Beyer he earned last time in a Cal-bred first-level allowance. It was his first start around two turns.

"He probably was meant to run long," Cerin said. "His pedigree doesn't say so, but he looks like a distance horse."

Texcess is making his second start back after a layoff of more than four months. He won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot last December at age 2, and should move forward after a good runner-up comeback.

California Cup races

RacePurseConditionDistancePost Time
Juvenile$125,0002YO, C&G1 1/16 miles11:46
Distance100,000F&M1 1/4 miles (T)12:18
Matron150,000F&M1 1/16 miles12:50
Starter50,0003YO & Up1 1/2 miles (T)1:22
Juvenile Fillies*125,0002YO F1 1/16 miles1:57
Sprint*150,0003YO & Up6 furlongs2:30
Distaff*150,000F&M6 1/2 furlongs (T)3:03
Classic*250,0003YO & Up1 1/8 miles3:36
Mile*175,0003YO & Up1 mile, turf4:08
Starter Sprint*50,0003YO & Up6 furlongs4:42

All races for California-breds; * $1 million guaranteed pick six, all times Pacific

The field

California Cup Classic Handicap
Purse: $250,000; 1 1/8 miles

1Devil BadgettR. Douglas11420-1
2McCann's MojaveA. Solis1183-1
3CherootD. Flores1136-1
4Desert BoomR. Gonzalez1229-5
5Deputy Doc RenziP. Valenzuela1135-1
6TexcessV. Espinoza1168-1
7Mr. Joe CM. Pedroza11415-1
8CaranoG. Gomez1156-1

* Odds by Michael Hammersly