01/23/2014 3:13PM

Santa Anita: Summer Hit looks bright in California Cup Turf Classic

Benoit & Associates
Summer Hit won the 2013 Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar last summer.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Summer Hit is in the midst of a career that plays in all seasons.

When the 5-year-old gelding starts as the favorite in Saturday’s $250,000 California Cup Turf Classic at Santa Anita, Summer Hit can win his fifth stakes, and first in the winter.

He won the 2012 Silky Sullivan Stakes and 2013 All American Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in the spring of those years, the 2013 Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar last summer, and the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate in his last race Nov. 29.

The only blemish on his recent record was a seventh as a 26-1 outsider in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes on dirt at Santa Anita in September.

“Look who he was running against,” said Dan Ward, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s assistant.

The Awesome Again Stakes was won by Mucho Macho Man, who later won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Summer Hit races for John Carver and Hollendorfer and has won 9 of 15 starts and $417,505. He was claimed for $12,500 after winning his debut by nine lengths in a maiden race at Golden Gate in January 2012.

The California Cup Turf Classic will be Summer Hit’s first start on turf since a sixth in the California Dreamin Handicap at Del Mar in July. He was the 9-5 favorite in that race and was near the lead before finishing 2 3/4 lengths behind winner He Be Fire N Ice.

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

The California Cup Classic has been run on turf, dirt, and once on a synthetic track since it was inaugurated in 1990. Saturday’s race will be the second time the race is run on turf, and the first time it has been run in January. From 1990 to 2012, the California Cup was held in October or November. The event was not held in 2013.

Saturday’s race is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Lucky Primo, winner of the 2012 California Cup Classic, is an 8-year-old and the senior member of the field. Lucky Primo was fifth in a $50,000 claimer after a troubled trip here Jan. 11.

There are three Hollywood Park stakes winners in the field: Stoney Fleece, winner of the Grade 3 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds on turf in 2011; Tiz a Minister, who won the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds in June; and Weewinnin, winner of the 2012 King Glorious Stakes for 2-year-olds.

Summer Hit drew the rail and is likely to be near the lead under leading rider Rafael Bejarano. Summer Hit has not raced on the turf at Santa Anita since winning an optional claimer over a mile here last March, his second win in three career starts on the track’s turf surface.

The Cal Cup Turf Classic will be the first start in a stakes for China Prince since a sixth behind Tiz a Minister in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes over a mile last January. Trained by Craig Dollase, China Prince has won his last two starts – an allowance race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 8 and an optional claimer on turf at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 28.

“It’s all systems go,” Dollase said. “We’re expecting a big run.”