01/28/2016 3:16PM

Sprinter San Onofre has yet to reach his peak

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Benoit & Associates
San Onofre takes a distinct class drop after winning the Grade 3 Midnight Lute.

San Onofre, the nuclear power plant, is offline. San Onofre, the horse, is heating up. Relatively lightly raced at age 6, having made a mere 10 starts, San Onofre will seek his second straight stakes win Saturday at Santa Anita in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint, a race that also drew the top female sprinter Sunday Rules.

San Onofre is a family affair. He is trained by Karen Headley, was bred by her father, Bruce, and is owned by the Matson Racing of her mother, Aase. Bruce Headley, who trained San Onofre for one start until yielding to Karen more than three years ago, was known for long, productive careers with sprinters like Eclipse champ Kona Gold and Son of a Pistol. San Onofre, though 6, still likely has his best days ahead of him, according to Karen Headley.

“Oh, I think so,” she said Thursday. “Horses get better with age. It’s nice to be able to let one go through their conditions. That’s what my daddy did. I learned from the best.”

San Onofre comes off a victory against open company Jan. 2 in the Grade 3 Midnight Lute and now drops into a race restricted to California-breds. To prevail, he will have to outrun Sunday Rules, a winner of 7 of 8 starts. She, too, is dipping into a California-bred stakes race. She faced unrestricted females last time out when taking the Kalookan Queen on Dec. 30, but this will be her first try against males.

The Cal Cup Sprint, at six furlongs, drew a field of seven. It goes as Race 6. It is immediately followed by the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint, which drew an overflow field of 14 to go about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course. A maximum of 12 can run in a race that looks like one of the most competitive betting races on the card.

Cal Cup Sprint, Race 6

KEY CONTENDERS

San Onofre, by Surf Cat

(Last 3 Beyers: 98-93-98)

◗ He has been brought along with great patience. In addition to winning a maiden race plus three allowance races before even trying a stakes, he never raced on Polytrack when Del Mar had that surface and thus is a Santa Anita specialist, having finished first or second in eight of nine races here.

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◗ In the Midnight Lute, he overcame the rail draw. He breaks from the rail again Saturday.

“That’s never been a concern of mine,” Headley said.

◗ The Midnight Lute marked his first graded stakes win.

“He beat a really good field last time,” Headley said. “He showed me what we always knew he had in him.”

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Sunday Rules, by Tribal Rule

(Last 3 Beyers: 88-93-80)

◗ She has sharp early speed and is favorably drawn outside of San Onofre, but this will be the toughest test of her career.

◗ This race was Plan B. A minor setback kept her out of the Santa Monica last weekend.

Solid Wager, by Birdonthewire

(Last 3 Beyers: 79-90-85)

◗ He’s an intriguing turnback play, having won two of the last three times he sprinted, including the Cary Grant at Del Mar on Nov. 22, when he ran down Raised a Secret, who is also in this race.

Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, Race 7

KEY CONTENDERS

Chati’s On Top, by Old Topper

(Last 3 Beyers: 86-82-91)

◗ Sluggish starts have compromised her chances in her last two races, but she has won down this course before and did so in concert with Santiago Gonzalez, the meet’s leading rider, who is back aboard for this.

Velvet Mesquite, by In Excess

(Last 3 Beyers: 87-92-89)

◗ She is on a nine-race losing streak, including a fourth in this race last year, but she’s a multiple winner over this course, which makes her dangerous.

Heaven’s Stairway, by Decarchy

(Last 3 Beyers: 77-85-92)

◗ A five-time winner over this course, she offers upset potential on the drop after being overmatched in her return from a nearly nine-month layoff last time out.

Qiaona, by Wilko

Last 3 Beyers: 86-74-82)

◗ There is plenty of speed in this race to set up her late rush, and she owns a win over this course.

Singing Kitty, by Ministers Wild Cat

(Last 3 Beyers: 84-88-94)

◗ A three-time stakes winner since being claimed 13 months ago, she won down the hill in September and was compromised last time by a disadvantageous rail draw.