10/11/2012 3:30PM

Santa Anita: Mensa Heat tries to end slide in Cal Cup Sprint

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Although he is winless in three starts since being claimed in July, Mensa Heat has retained his consistent form, and on Saturday at Santa Anita, he lands a terrific chance to both erase that losing streak and pocket one of the richest paydays of his career in the $100,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint.

Not only is Mensa Heat in good form, coming off a sharp, third-place finish on the hillside turf course in the Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes on opening day Sept. 29, but Mensa Heat – and every other horse in the race – also benefits from the absence of the best California-bred sprinter, Eclipse Award-winner Amazombie, who aims a little higher these days.

“Without a horse like that, we’ve got a huge chance,” Doug O’Neill, the trainer of Mensa Heat, said Thursday morning.

Mensa Heat, who will be making the 49th start of his career, already is a multiple stakes winner. But, being a 6-year-old gelding, he was risked for a claiming tag in July, and O’Neill and his partners reached in. Mensa Heat has been second twice, and third once, in three starts since.

“He’s such a hard-trying, hard-knocking horse,” said O’Neill, who is being honored Saturday with a track giveaway of a bobblehead of his likeness. “I love this horse. I just have a lot of faith in him. He’s a trainer’s dream. Every time you bring him over, he brings it.”

To prevail in the six-furlong Cal Cup Sprint, Mensa Heat will have to outrun nine others, including Shudacudawudya, a Northern California terror who has won half his 18 starts and is seeking his third straight victory.

“He’s all racehorse. He gives you all he can give,” his trainer, Lloyd Mason, said Thursday morning. “He’s a pretty laid-back horse. You can place him where you want.”

This will be the first start at Santa Anita for Shudacudawudya, and it will be just the second time he has raced on dirt. He was third in the Sam Whiting at Pleasanton in July, “but he got into a little bit of a traffic jam there,” Mason said.

Ain’t No Other, second in the Whiting, is another formidable presence in this race. He comes off a second-place finish in the Governor’s Cup at Fairplex, the fourth time he has finished second this year in six starts. Rafael Bejarano takes over Saturday.

Legal Separation was fifth in the Governor’s Cup after beating $40,000 claimers at Del Mar.

Bench Points showed improved speed last time out but still seems a cut below the level he was at a year ago. Obsess comes off a win at Fairplex, and has finished in the money in seven of nine career starts at Santa Anita.

The lightly raced Derby Gold, who disappointed at Del Mar, has a shot to improve now that he is back at Santa Anita, where he ran well in his first two starts. Korban beat $40,000 claimers in his race before last but always has seemed more effective at Hollywood Park, where he regularly trains.

Maui Mark has won four of eight starts at Santa Anita but is usually more effective against softer foes. Night Wind also looks like he’s aiming a bit too high.