10/13/2004 11:00PM

Top Money coming around just in time

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The progression of Top Money this summer at Del Mar was fun to watch. He broke slowly in his debut and then lugged in down the stretch, but still had enough raw talent to beat maiden claimers. He again broke a step slowly, and again tried to lug in, while beating a starter-allowance field in his second start.

By the end of the meet, though, he had become far more professional. In the I'm Smokin Stakes on Sept. 6, Top Money broke sharper and ran straighter than he ever had. The result was a three-length victory and a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

will go for his fourth straight victory in Saturday's $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. He will need that new-found maturity, because he will have to stretch out around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race.

In preparation for this race, Top Money drilled one mile on Sept. 26 for trainer Adam Kitchingman. But nothing can approximate a race.

To prevail, Top Money will have to turn back several pesky rivals.

Lucky J.H. crushed statebred maidens at Del Mar in his second start, winning by seven lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs. He is by Cee's Tizzy and is out of an A.P. Indy mare, so the distance should be within his range. He also drew the rail, so he can utilize his speed from there, but trainer Carla Gaines had hoped he would draw a post more toward the outside of the gate.

"All the speed is outside of him," Gaines said.

Gaines is also concerned because Lucky J.H. was ill at the beginning of the meet and missed a scheduled start in the Cavonnier Stakes on Sept. 30.

"He had a virus," Gaines said. "I've got a lot of confidence in him, but he was kind of knocked out because of the virus. It was one of those 48-hour bugs, so you still have to be a little careful. I've pressed a little, but he's handled it. Two turns should hit him right between the eyes."

Tizmanian Devil is the only horse in the race with a two-turn win at a one-mile track. He defeated maidens here on Sept. 29 in his third lifetime start, but he was seven lengths in arrears of Lucky J.H. on Sept. 5 at Del Mar.

Texcess has raced just once, but it was a terrific effort. He lost by a head in the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex, a race that is restricted to horses who went through the sales ring there, but it is not restricted to Cal-breds, so the race might be comparable to a statebred race. He fits, but inexperience is a concern.

Generalist was second in the Cavonnier after finishing fourth behind Top Money in the I'm Smokin'.

The Wizard Rocks captured the Gateway to Glory at Fairplex when adding blinkers for the first time, but he has never run faster than a 59 Beyer.

Nickel Silver defeated maidens at Fairplex in his fifth lifetime start.

The field

California Cup Juvenile
Purse: $125,000; 1 1/16 miles

PPHORSEJOCKEYODDS
1Lucky J. H.V. Espinoza9-2
2Tizmanian DevilD. Flores7-2
3This Wizard RocksM. Pedroza8-1
4Nickel SilverO. Figueroa20-1
5Top MoneyI. Enriquez6-5
6TexcessR.R. Douglas12-1
7ConspiratorM. Garcia8-1
8GeneralistM. Smith12-1

* All starters carry 118 pounds
* Odds by Michael Hammersly