10/28/2010 2:57PM

Slight edge to Shelter Cove in rich maiden race


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The California Cup program will feature three maiden races for the first time this year, after the list of races was redesigned earlier this year to eliminate two starter handicaps and a stakes that had drawn limited support.

Added to the list of races are $40,000 maiden races over six furlongs for 2-year-olds, 2-year-old fillies, and for 3-year-olds and up on turf. Gone are the $50,000 starter sprint, the $50,000 starter handicap on turf, and the $100,000 Distance Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Last year at Santa Anita, the starter handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf and the Distance Handicap drew five runners each, and the sprint starter handicap failed to fill. A starter allowance over 1 1/8 miles was a late addition and drew six.

Overall, the 2009 California Cup program drew 69 starters in 10 races. This year, the 10-race program has 74 entrants. Saturday’s maiden races drew eight 2-year-old fillies, six 2-year-olds, and nine starters in the turf race.

Even with a small field, the six-runner third race may be the most competitive. Shelter Cove, second against open company last Sunday, makes a quick turnaround for trainer Doug O’Neill.

Shelter Cove has drawn the rail in a field that includes first-time starters Arresting Officer, trained by Mike Mitchell; Kalyra Cat, trained by Mike Puype, and Just Jumped In, from the barn of Bill Spawr.

Mitchell is guardedly optimistic about Arresting Officer’s chances, but said the colt by Officer has shown ability.

“He’s a nice little horse, very quick,” Mitchell said. “Mitchell and first-time starters, I’m not that good at them, but he’s very fast. I don’t feel he’s a distance horse. I’ve got him cranked up.”

In the second race, Zenidekka drew the rail and will be well-backed. By Benchmark, she was an unlucky fourth after a slow start against a similar field on Oct. 3. A Golden Jet, who was third in that race, breaks from the outside post.

The sixth race on turf includes Short Memo, who is trained by Kathy Walsh. Her stable has a strong record with first-time starters and has won with three of its first seven starters at this meeting.

Turning Top cuts back for Las Palmas

In some seasons, a second in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes would justify a start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Turning Top, second in the Yellow Ribbon on Oct. 2, will be an exception this year.

Owner Michael Tabor and trainer Simon Callaghan have opted to stay point Turning Top for Sunday’s $150,000 Las Palmas Handicap over a mile on turf.

“We thought [about the Breeders’ Cup] but we thought the filly is still progressing,” Callaghan said. “We could run in the Breeders’ Cup next year.”

The Las Palmas has drawn a field of eight and will be Turning Top’s first start at a mile since she won the restricted Redondo Beach here in June. She has been running 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 miles in her last three starts.

“I’m not overly concerned with the distance,” Callaghan said. “She’s pretty versatile. She’s runs over a mile. If the pace is fast, that will be a difference.”