10/28/2010 1:42PM

Oak Tree Mile one-two finishers meet again in Cal Cup Mile


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile at Hollywood Park on Oct. 9 was supposed to be a preview of California’s best hopes for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. Instead, the turf race turned out to be an advance showing of two of the top runners in Saturday’s $100,000 California Cup Mile.

The 5-year-old geldings Liberian Freighter and Colgan’s Chip finished just a nose apart and are two of the top contenders in Saturday’s Cal Cup Mile, which is run on turf and has drawn a field of six.

It can be argued that both Liberian Freighter and Colgan’s Chip ran the best races of their careers in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile. The same can be said of Bruce’s Dream’s performance in the California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar on July 25.

Bruce’s Dream, Colgan’s Chip, and Liberian Freighter meet for the first time in the Cal Cup Mile, and are joined by the improving Tiz Argent, and the veteran allowance horses Pop’shands Are Hot and Jiggly.

The betting figures to be equally spirited, with Bruce’s Dream likely to go favored over Liberian Freighter, whose career earnings of $571,740 from 8 wins in 22 starts are the highest in the field.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Liberian Freighter has been pointed to the Cal Cup Mile for the last several months. He will be after his third consecutive stakes win, having won the Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 25.

Bruce’s Dream followed his win in the California Dreamin’ Handicap with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 28, one of only two losses in his seven-race career. He finished a length behind Enriched after racing in traffic in the stretch under jockey Garrett Gomez.

“He couldn’t have been more on top of them the other day,” trainer Mike Puype said. “Garrett was trying to get him to relax. He had nowhere to go down the lane.”

Bruce’s Dream had a two-week break at a local farm after Del Mar. Puype considered a start in the Oak Tree Mile, but did not enter because the standout 3-year-old Sidney’s Candy was expected to be a big favorite. But Sidney’s Candy was scratched on the morning of the race. In recent weeks, Puype has been happy with Bruce’s Dream’s progress.

“It will be a good test,” Puype said of the Cal Cup Mile. “It made sense to freshen him up.”

Bruce’s Dream can race near the front or from farther back, which Puype thinks is an asset. “He’s very versatile,” Pupye said.

Colgan’s Chip is likely to be part of the pace. He was near the front in the California Dreamin’, and led throughout an optional claimer at Del Mar in late August. In the Oak Tree Mile, he was second for the first six furlongs, led by a head at the eighth pole and just missed under jockey Brice Blanc.

“Brice seems to ride him well,” trainer Jenine Sahadi said. “I’m very happy with the way he’s run.”