10/29/2011 6:54PM

Santa Anita: Norvsky prevails in Cal Cup Classic three-horse photo


ARCADIA, Calif.- His trainer calls him a member of the “B team”, but Norvsky was the top California-bred at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Winning the richest race his career, Norvsky caught a stubborn pacesetter in Lucky Primo to win the $175,000 California Cup Classic, the most lucrative of five stakes for statebreds on Saturday’s nine-race program.

Norvsky was ridden by jockey Rafael Bejarano, his fourth winner of the day.

Norvsky is trained by Don Warren for a partnership that includes Bud and Judy Johnston. The same trainer and owner campaign the multiple graded stakes winner Acclamation, who is currently sidelined.

Norvsky has raced primarily to California-bred races this year, and was the 3-2 favorite in the Cal Cup Classic, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. He was confidently ridden by Bejarano.

Norvsky was held up for the first half of the race, well behind the pace of 23.78 and 47.97 seconds set by Lucky Primo. Sixth on the backstretch, Norvsky was fourth at the end of the backstretch and made a three-wide move to reach contention in the stretch.

Trailing Lucky Primo by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining, Norvsky took the lead in the final strides and won by a neck in 1:46.97.

“He was ready today and he was in a perfect position,” Bejarano said. “I took a hold and waited for the stretch. My horse took off in the stretch.”

Lucky Primo was fully extended to hold second, finishing a nose in front of a fast-closing Holladay Road in the field of eight. Defending champion Soul Candy faded through the stretch to finish last.

Lucky Primo won the 2008 California Cup Juvenile, but has made just nine starts since that race, battling soundness issues at times.

“He’s had a lot to overcome,” owner-trainer Joshua Litt said. “At the quarter pole, I didn’t think he’d hit the board. At the sixteenth pole, I was jumping up and down. He just got nailed.”

Norvsky has won 5 of 16 starts and $392,844. A 5-year-old gelding by the Danzig sire Vronsky, Norvsky won the California Dreamin’ Handicap for statebreds at Del Mar in July, and was later second in the restricted Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar and Ralph Hinds Pomona Handicap at Fairplex Park.

With Acclamation currently being rested for a 2012 campaign, Norvsky has become the major player on the Johnston-Warren team.

“It’s good to have the B team win a race,” Warren said.