12/10/2010 4:30PM

Slammer Time out to take a step up

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Benoit & Associates
Slammer Time, Rafael Bejarano up, wins the California Cup Juvenile.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Respect can arrive slowly for the winner of the California Cup Juvenile each fall.

With the top runners of the division racing in graded stakes at that time of the year, the California Cup Juvenile winner is sometimes considered a second-rate performer, until proven otherwise.

Slammer Time will be out to show he is more than just the winner of a statebred stakes in coming weeks.

He won the California Cup Juvenile at Hollywood Park on Oct. 30 and is nearing another stakes appearance. Trainer Gary Mandella will decide this weekend between a start in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18 or two stakes on the opening week of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting – the $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes over seven furlongs on Dec. 26 or the Eddie Logan Stakes over a mile on turf.

As of Friday, Mandella was leaning toward the CashCall Futurity, considering that Slammer Time is proven over 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Hollywood Park in the California Cup Juvenile.

What has encouraged the trainer is the steady progress that Slammer Time has shown in recent weeks.

“He’s settling, and that’s better to have in a two-turn horse,” Mandella said. “He’s no skyrocket, like an Uncle Mo or To Honor and Serve. He’s moved up each time we’ve run him. If he keeps doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

Slammer Time is by Grand Slam out of the In Excess mare Excessively Wicked. Bred by Vessels Stallion Farm in California, Slammer Time was purchased for $120,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale and is owned by the Alto Racing partnership.

Excessively Wicked, bred by Vessels and David Randal, is a 6-year-old mare. She did not race and Slammer Time is her first foal.

Slammer Time debuted at Hollywood Park in July, finishing a troubled seventh in a maiden race for statebreds over 5 1/2 furlongs. He was a much brighter third in a one-mile maiden race on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 25, a race in which Mandella said the colt was rank early.

Slammer Time was entered on Oct. 5, but the program was canceled because of a flash rainstorm. Slammer Time raced six days later, winning a maiden race against open company over a mile on turf.

In the Cal Cup Juvenile, Slammer Time was the 9-5 favorite. He was fourth in a field of eight for the first six furlongs and rallied through the stretch to win by a head. Mandella said he would have preferred that Slammer Time had the additional days to prepare for the Cal Cup Juvenile.

“I had my timing diverted,” he said. “I planned to run him on Oct. 5, but that was the day they canceled the races. I had to wait and run him on the 11th and then run him back in 19 days. It wasn’t the way you want to do it, not a perfect scenario.”

Slammer Time would be tested in the CashCall Futurity, which is expected to have a maximum field of 14 starters. The stakes winners Clubhouse Ride, Comma to the Top, Gourmet Dinner, J P’s Gusto and Rustler Hustler are part of a competitive field.

The Cal Cup Juvenile winner will be a longshot, which Mandella understands.

“Rightfully so,” he said of the Oct. 30 race. “It’s not an open graded stakes, but he did beat open maiden company on turf before that race. I think he’s got a good chance to hit the board the way he’s going.”