01/24/2015 7:24PM

Spirit Rules takes down small field in California Cup Sprint

Benoit & Associates
Spirit Rules and jockey Iggy Puglisi go past San Onofre to win the California Cup Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Spirit Rules gave jockey Iggy Puglisi his first stakes win in 10 years in Saturday’s $150,000 California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.
It is not as if the veterans have not been trying.

The 6-year-old Spirit Rules and the 40-year-old rider have been a team in six stakes in the last 15 months, with a second and two third-place finishers their best results in those races. In Saturday’s California Cup Sprint, Spirit Rules always was near the front and finished a half-length in front of the 1-2 San Onofre in the six-furlong race for California-breds.

Spirit Rules ($26.20) started from the outside in a field of five. Puglisi said his goal was to save ground and stalk San Onofre.

“The race looked like it was laced with speed,” Puglisi said. “I think he was helped drawing outside. I wanted to sit right by him. I didn’t want to be four across.”

San Onofre and Spirit Rules fought through early fractions of 21.49 seconds for a quarter-mile and 44.14 for a half-mile, with only a head between them on the turn. Spirit Rules led by a half-length with a furlong remaining and was tested to the finish.

San Onofre finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Follini, who was followed by Rousing Sermon and Marino’s Wild Cat. Big Macher, the winner of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar last July, was scratched Friday, along with Frumious. Frensham and Grazen’s Hope were scratched Saturday.

Spirit Rules was timed in 1:10.31.

“He gives all he can to the wire,” trainer Paul Aguirre said.

The loss by San Onofre ended a four-race winning streak from November 2013 to February 2014. He returned to action following a layoff of more than 11 months in the California Cup Sprint.

“He hadn’t run in a year,” jockey Mike Smith said. “The horse that beat him is a good, old horse that has been running all year.”

Spirit Rules was third in the Katella Stakes at Los Alamitos last September and the Harris Farms Stakes for California-breds at the Big Fresno Fair in October. A 6-year-old gelding by Tribal Rule, Spirit Rules has won 5 of 16 starts and earned $318,378.

Spirit Rules, who was fourth in the 2014 Cal Cup Sprint, races for Jeanmarc Murphy, Barbara Acccardy, Craig Seidler, and Jim and Mark Xitco.