10/27/2011 3:10PM

Santa Anita: Champions Gate tries two turns in California Cup Juvenile

Shigeki Kikkawa
Champions Gate scores a maiden victory in his debut at Del Mar.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The last several months have geared toward a start in Saturday’s $100,000 California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita for Champions Gate.

Owned by breeder Don Dizney, Champions Gate was a sharp winner of his debut at Del Mar in August and second after a poor start in the I’m Smokin Stakes for statebreds there Sept. 5.

The unknown is how he will fare in a route in the Cal Cup Juvenile, run over 1 1/16 miles.

“If he handles two turns, he should be tough,” trainer Mike Machowsky said.

The job is easier with the absence of Ruler of Dubai, who swept the two statebred stakes at Del Mar and was third in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 1. He is skipping the race. Without Ruler of Dubai, the Cal Cup Juvenile lacks a standout.

Aside from Champions Gate, who drew the outside post, the field of nine includes two others who have placed in stakes. Rousing Sermon was third in both the Graduation and I’m Smokin Stakes, while Inquisitive Son was third in the Afflerbaugh Stakes at Fairplex Park.

Champions Gate, a gelding by Pure Prize, was given a two-week break following the I’m Smokin Stakes.

“Everything is good,” Machowsky said. “When we got here, we freshened him because they didn’t have any races for him early in the meeting.”

The draw on the outside has left Machowsky confident. Champions Gate is likely to race just behind the leaders.

“If someone wants the lead, we can sit right off of them,” he said.

Of the nine entrants, only Stoney Fleece has won at a mile or farther. Claimed for $40,000 by trainer John Sadler from a win in a maiden race for statebreds at Del Mar on July 28, Stoney Fleece has since won two of three starts – a starter allowance for sprinters at Del Mar and an allowance race against open company over a mile on turf Oct. 15. In between those starts, he was fifth in the I’m Smokin Stakes.

Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber, Stoney Fleece, by Decarchy, has earned $84,680, the highest earnings among the nine entrants.

“We like the race being around two turns,” Sadler said. “We thought he’d be better going long. I claimed him for the grass, but I think he’ll handle the dirt. It’s the right spot for him to be in.”

Decarchy is the sire of three runners in the field. Broadway Nika, a half-brother to Cal Cup Classic contender Lucky Primo by Decarchy, is a maiden after two races.

Motown Men is a promising Decarchy colt trained by Doug O’Neill. Bred by O’Neill and Mark Gorman, Motown Men won his debut by a nose in a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Sept. 5.

“He’s a very mature 2-year-old with only one start under his belt,” O’Neill said. “To win the way he did at Del Mar was a great feat. It wasn’t easy to win on the front end very often.”

Motown Men worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, which left Gorman and O’Neill encouraged about the Cal Cup Juvenile.

“It was after that work that we said we’d give it a shot,” O’Neill said.