10/11/2012 1:47PM

Santa Anita: John Scott looks tough in California Cup Classic

Benoit & Associates
John Scott was off from October 2009 until April of this year, sidelined by a series of injuries.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It will take all of the Santa Anita autumn meeting for John Scott to achieve the goals expected of him.

A 5-year-old gelding, John Scott will start favored in Saturday’s $175,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita, a race that could be a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile here on Nov. 3.

“Hopefully this won’t be a hard race,” trainer Carla Gaines said on Thursday.

Considering this background, getting this far is an accomplishment for John Scott. He was off from October 2009 until April of this year, sidelined by a series of injuries. Since his return, he has won 3 of 5 starts, highlighted by a win in the Harry Brubaker Stakes over a mile at Del Mar on Sept. 1.

John Scott starts in the ninth of 10 races on Saturday. The California Cup Classic is one of six stakes for statebreds on a program that begins at 1 p.m.

[CALIFORNIA CUP: Get Santa Anita PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

For the first time, the Cal Cup Classic is not the richest race of the day. This year, the two races for 2-year-olds – the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies – are worth an all-time high of $250,000. The boost in purses came through the development of the Golden State Series for California-breds, which has boosted purses for 2- and 3-year-old statebreds. The Golden State Series began earlier this year.

John Scott was bred by John Harris and has won 5 of 8 starts and $301,304. Earlier this year, John Scott won two allowance races or optional claimers at Betfair Hollywood Park before a successful two-race campaign at Del Mar that began with a second by a half-length to Rail Trip in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap.

Hollywood Park and Del Mar have synthetic tracks. John Scott will be after his first win on a dirt track on Saturday. He worked well on the surface in the summer, Gaines said. Since then, 1,000 tons of sand has been added.

“Hopefully, he doesn’t have to run on a synthetic track,” Gaines said.

“Before Del Mar, he was burning up this track, but that was before the sand got added.”

John Scott will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who will have options to stalk the pace or try to take the lead.

Got Even, who won the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes over seven furlongs here last December, is expected to set the pace, closely followed by Lucky Primo, who was second in the 2011 Cal Cup Classic.

Lucky Primo, 6, won the 2008 California Cup Juvenile, but injuries have limited him to 15 starts. The Cal Cup Classic will be Lucky Primo’s third start of 2012.

Got Even is one two 3-year-olds in the field, along with Rousing Sermon, who was eighth in the Kentucky Derby. Rousing Sermon won the 2011 Cal Cup Juvenile, which remains his only stakes win in 13 starts.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Rousing Sermon was fourth in the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 8. Winless in seven starts this year, he gave perhaps his best performance in a second in the Real Good Deal Stakes over seven furlongs for California-breds at Del Mar on Aug. 3.

Saturday’s race is the first time the Cal Cup Classic has been run at 1 1/16 miles. From 1990 to 2010, it was run over 1 1/8 miles.

The 2011 Cal Cup Classic was run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Holladay Road, owned by Gary and Wendy Broad, was third in that race, closing well to lose by a neck. He is back for Saturday’s race.

A 7-year-old gelding trained by Julio Canani, Holladay Road has shown the versatility to run well on several surfaces. He won the Crystal Water Stakes for California-breds over 1 1/16 miles here in January, and was third in the Brubaker Stakes behind John Scott at Del Mar last month.

“That race was a mile and it was too short for him,” Canani said. “The horse is doing good. You’ve got to beat John Scott.”