02/08/2012 2:49PM

Santa Anita: California Heat may be live longshot in turf sprint


ARCADIA, Calif. – The breakthrough first winner of the current Santa Anita winter-spring meeting cannot occur soon enough for trainer Barry Abrams.

Through Sunday, Abrams was winless with his first 29 starters, which included two second-place finishes and three thirds.

“We’re in a huge slump,” he said at Santa Anita on Wednesday. “They’ll come around. They’ll get better and better. They’ll be some good ones over the next month.”

Abrams has an outsider worth a look in Friday’s seventh race in California Heat, who runs in a first-level optional $25,000 claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course for California-bred fillies and mares.

Owned by a partnership, California Heat has one victory in 15 starts, and reverts to a sprint for the first time since April on Friday. California Heat, 5, was fifth in a one-mile optional claimer on turf on Jan. 19, her only start at this meeting.

“She fits with these horses,” Abrams said. “She’s training good and running better than she was.

“She’s a good longshot. If there is a good pace, she’ll come running.”

California Heat’s lone win came in a one-mile race over this turf course in October, when she closed from seventh. In the Jan. 19 race, California Heat closed from last in a field of eight as a 21-1 outsider.

Friday’s seventh race lacks a heavy favorite, but there will be ample support for Cactus Flyer. Trained by Gary Sherlock, Cactus Flyer was third in a productive optional claimer for California-breds on Jan. 7. Race winner La Sombre returned to win on Feb. 3, while runner-up Meltarib won on Jan. 19.

Claimed for $32,000 last October, Cactus Flyer has 2 wins in 13 starts. Her most recent win, in February 2010, occurred in a starter allowance on the hillside turf course.

Miss Becca, 5, has had a promising start to her career, with 2 wins in 5 starts and 3 second-place finishes. A former maiden claimer, she has won on a dirt track and a synthetic track, and was second in a starter allowance race on the hillside turf course in October.

“She’s learned to rate in her last few races and it’s made her a better filly,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “I’ve yet to figure out what her best surface is. The grass obviously helps her style.”

Leading rider Joel Rosario rides Miss Becca. Her former rider, Rafael Bejarano rides Cactus Flyer.