01/25/2017 3:20PM

Princess Roi has flourished since switching to turf

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Benoit & Associates
Sircat Sally, winner of the Soviet Problem, will go favored in the California Cup Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Princess Roi had trainer Richard Baltas confused by the end of the Del Mar summer meeting last year. She was favored in two maiden races for 2-year-old California-bred fillies, but was a well-beaten second in both starts.

“I thought I was going to win first time out,” Baltas recalled Wednesday. “I didn’t know what she wanted to do. When she didn’t do it on the dirt, I thought she’s probably not a dirt horse.”

A switch to turf led to Princess Roi’s first win in November, against maidens. In December, she was second in her stakes debut in the Blue Norther Stakes on turf at Santa Anita. Those races have led to Saturday’s $200,000 California Cup Oaks for statebred fillies at a mile on turf at Santa Anita.

“It’s where she belongs,” Baltas said.

Owned by GGG Stables and Russ Sarno, Princess Roi, by Roi Charmant, has won $75,900 in four starts. Earlier this month, the owners paid $25,000 to nominate Princess Roi to the California Gold Rush program, a series of stakes for statebreds. The Cal Cup Oaks is part of that year-round program.

The Oaks field is led by Sircat Sally, the unbeaten winner of the Soviet Problem Stakes at a mile on dirt Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos.

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The Cal Cup Oaks is one of five six-figure stakes for California-breds on Saturday’s program. Baltas intends to have runners in three races, including Temple Keys in the $250,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles on turf and Well Measured in the $150,000 Sprint at six furlongs.

The Classic field is led by 2016 graded stakes winners Ashleyluvssugar and What a View. Temple Keys was second by a nose in an optional claimer against open company Dec. 26.

Well Measured, second in the Harris Farms Stakes at the Big Fresno Fair in October, was claimed by Baltas and Paymaster Stable for $20,000 when third in an optional claimer for California-breds on Jan. 2.

“I think I’ll run because the race is coming up light,” Baltas said.

The $250,000 California Cup Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track is led by Ann Arbor Eddie and California Diamond, who were first and second in the King Glorious Stakes at a mile at Los Alamitos last month.

The King Glorious was the first stakes win for Ann Arbor Eddie. California Diamond won four sprint stakes in 2016 and will face a distance test in the Cal Cup Derby. California Chrome, the two-time Horse of the Year, won the 2014 Cal Cup Derby.

Enola Gray, third in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on dirt Dec. 26, will be favored in Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint on the hillside turf course.