07/26/2012 2:19PM

Santa Rosa: Cal Bayers gets shot in Jack Demeo Horseman of the Year Stakes

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When trainer Bob Hess looked through the Sonoma County Fair condition book, he scanned the claiming-race opportunities on the turf for Cal Bayers. Then something happened to make him revise his plans and enter her in Saturday’s $50,000 Jack Demeo Horseman of the Year Stakes: A horse Cal Bayers beat in her last start came back to win at Del Mar.

Cal Bayers defeated Roses for Joni by a half-length in a June 14 starter allowance race on the Golden Gate turf in her last start. Then Roses for Joni ran July 19 at Del Mar, winning a strong $40,000 claimer on the turf, and Hess decided to try Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Rosa instead of bringing Cal Bayers back for a tag.

“I didn’t have much choice,” he said. “I was going to run for $12,500, but the horse I beat last time won at Del Mar.”

Cal Bayers has seven rivals in the Horseman of the Year Stakes. Among them are Sweet Nothings and Light Up the Sky, an uncoupled entry from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; the stakes winner Youtheprizeandi; and She Spirit di Su, who claimed after losing by a nose to Roses for Joni in the July 19 Del Mar race.

Hess realizes he’s taking a shot with Cal Bayers, who was a $50,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in September 2010. She graduated in a bottom-level $8,000 maiden claimer on Feb. 24 at Golden Gate Fields. But since stretching out to routes from sprints, she has hit the board in all six starts, winning three. Her two best efforts have come in her past two starts, a win and a third in Golden Gate starter allowance races, and she’s worked steadily in the six weeks since her last start.

Hess said he’s already looking ahead to claiming races when Golden Gate Fields reopens, but, he says, “She’s going well.”

Still, the competition is rugged.

Sweet Nothings ran second in both the Corte Madera and California Oaks last winter and was third in the Golden Poppy on the turf this spring. She won her last start, a May 27 allowance race on the turf, and has been working steadily since.

Her stablemate Light Up the Sky is also coming off a turf allowance victory on June 17. The two Hollendorfer runners have split decisions in their two meetings.

Ms Pianist finished third behind the two Hollendorfer fillies in March. Rounding out the field are Sukara, who has won two straight, and Good Mango, coming off a maiden win.