01/23/2014 2:44PM

Santa Anita: Cyclometer on upward trajectory for California Cup Sprint

Benoit & Associates
Cyclometer moves in with statebreds in the California Cup Sprint after this victory over open company in the Midnight Lute.

The way trainer Bruce Headley campaigned the likes of Kona Gold and Son of a Pistol through long, productive careers, it only stands to reason that Cyclometer is just now reaching his peak, at the tender age of 6. With victories in two of his last three starts, including the overnight Midnight Lute Stakes against open company on Jan. 4, Cyclometer appears to be the one to beat in the $125,000 California Cup Sprint on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Cyclometer has raced just 17 times, but since returning this fall from his annual hiatus from the Del Mar main track he has been at his best. Cyclometer won a second-level allowance race against open company at Hollywood Park, then was second against statebreds at Hollywood Park in the On Trust Handicap before his victory in the Midnight Lute. All three of those races were in concert with jockey Mike Smith, who is back aboard for the Cal Cup.

[California Cup Day: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

“We always knew he had talent,” Karen Headley, who assists her father, said Thursday morning. “We love having these older horses, watching them get better as they age.”

Karen Headley said she was concerned about Cyclometer’s slow start in the Midnight Lute, then gratified he overcame it to prevail.

“We went from having an excuse to having something to brag about,” she said.

With the likes of Follini, Coach Bob, and Big Macher likely to be prominent early in the race, Cyclometer figures to get a comfortable, stalking trip.

The Cal Cup Sprint, at six furlongs, goes as the eighth race on the card. Ten are entered, with six of the runners age 6 or older.

The oldest is Mobilized, who at age 8 – and after 32 starts on either turf or synthetic surfaces – is finally racing for the first time on dirt.

“We figured he was old enough to try it,” joked his trainer, Gary Mandella.

In his last start, Mobilized finished third in the On Trust, 1 1/2 lengths behind Cyclometer.

“I was going to wait for something down the hill, but after bringing him over here from Hollywood Park, he trained really well over the dirt, so we figured we’d try it,” Mandella said. “Six furlongs is not his ideal distance, but this could open options for the rest of his career. I figure he’s got three or four years left in him.”

Follini exits a third in a tough second-level allowance race. With his rail draw, he probably has to be used early.

Kate’s Event, Luckarack, and Spirit Rules all could threaten late. Spirit Rules moved too soon last time into a slow pace. He is best when held up behind a hot pace, and should get that scenario Saturday.

This Means War set for battle

This Means War was given plenty of time off to recover from a soft-tissue injury, and was given more time when she got ill last fall. But the wait has been worth it. She came off a 15-month layoff to win against open company in her comeback on Dec. 8 at Hollywood Park, and now has a chance to get her first stakes win in a wide-open running of the $125,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.

This race will be the first for This Means War on the about 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf course at Santa Anita, but she is unbeaten in two grass starts, including a sprint in that comeback race.

“We never panicked with her, gave her as much time as she needed,” said Dean Pederson, who trains This Means War for her breeder and co-owner, John Harris.

Pederson said that Harris’s farm trainer, Per Antonsen, deserved much of the credit for nursing This Means War back to racing readiness.

“We couldn’t have asked for much better for her comeback race,” Pederson said. “Hopefully she can take the next step forward Saturday.”

The Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, the fifth race on the card, drew a field of 11.

For This Means War to prevail, she will have to outrun some veterans with plenty of stakes experience, including Ciao Bella Luna (Grade 2 Beaumont winner), Journey On (Grade 3 Autumn Miss runner-up), and multiple Cal-bred stakes winner Unusual Hottie.