10/27/2011 3:53PM

Santa Anita: Cal Cup Sprint deepest race of the day

Benoit Photo
M One Rifle will make his first start since July in a deep renewal of the Cal Cup Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The shortest race is the best race Saturday at Santa Anita.

With a quality-packed field that includes three Grade 1 winners and another that could have won a Grade 1 with any luck, the six-furlong, $100,000 California Cup Sprint (race  8) is the deepest race on the nine-race Cal Cup card. Even without Amazombie.

“California always seems to have it in the sprint division,” Ted H. West said. He trains Cal Cup starter Mensa Heat, a troubled third behind Amazombie three weeks ago in the Ancient Title.

“I think honestly we could have won,” West said. “We never had any room to run from the eighth pole home.”

Mensa Heat lost by three-quarters of a length, and drops Saturday into a race restricted to statebreds. It is not an easy spot.

M One Rifle is training super for his first since July, Bob Black Jack returns from a 20-month layoff, and Cost of Freedom won the 2010 Cal Cup Sprint. Those three are Grade 1 winners, in a race that centers on M One Rifle and Mensa Heat.

Trainer Bruce Headley said nothing was inherently wrong with M One Rifle that led to him being turned out. But it was time for a break after he was banged around in May in the roughly-run Los Angeles Handicap, and then ran flat one month later.

“He didn’t fire, he must have been body sore,” Headley said. “So I took him home.” M One Rifle, winner of the 2009 Malibu Stakes, did not have to ship far.

Headley’s backyard ranch is only three miles from Santa Anita, and M One Rifle was turned out in a yard with a lot of history. Many of Headley’s top sprinters were freshened there before returning to the track.

“Kona Gold, Son of a Pistol, Surf Cat, Street Boss, Lakota Brave, Kalookan Queen . . . they were all back there,” Headley said.

M One Rifle has not raced in four months. Is he ready? “Bruce Headley is training him, what do you think?” Headley said. “He is ready, for sure. Look at how many three-quarters he has had, and a bunch of five-eighths . . . Mesh Tenney-style.”

Chantal Sutherland rides M One Rifle, whose triple-digit Beyer Figures this spring stand out. He has won five races and $491,002 from 15 starts, and figures for a good trip right behind the speed.

Mensa Heat also is looking for a good trip, and it will be Joe Talamo’s job to orchestrate one after breaking from the rail. Last out in the Ancient Title, Mensa Heat was blocked the length of the lane and finished third. Not bad for a horse claimed in April for $25,000.

“He looked like a solid horse, not the type horse you would claim and think you have stakes aspirations,” West said.

But the 5-year-old gelding by Unusual Heat improved as the year progressed. Six starts for West include four wins; Mensa Heat has won eight races and $368,258 from 39 starts.

Bob Black Jack, the Malibu winner in 2008, has not raced since February 2010; Cost of Freedom, 2008 Ancient Title winner, finished second in a fast allowance last out at Fairplex Park.

Other entrants include Legal Separation, Chiloquin, Dance With Gable, Courtside, Warren’s Knockout, and Fruminous.

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