11/05/2007 12:00AM

This year it's the Northern Cal Cup

EmailALBANY, Calif. - Northern California horses had their best showing ever at the California Cup on Saturday at Santa Anita, winning three races.

Bold Chieftain became Northern California's first Cal Cup Classic winner since Charmonnier upset Best Pal in 1991. The Northern California-based Gentle Charmer scored a record-setting $110 victory in the Distaff, bettering the previous high payoff for the series, set by Northern Californian Our Mango when she paid $100.20 in the same race in 2004. Sierra Sunset, also based in Northern California, won the Juvenile.

Bold Chieftain, under Russell Baze, hooked Lava Man at the head of the lane, pushed past him, and held off Celtic Dreamin to win the $250,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles.

"Being a breeder and winning at Cal Cup is very special," said Bold Chieftain's owner-breeder-trainer, Bill Morey Jr. "It was a fun day."

Logical future spots for Bold Chieftain include the Grade 3 Native Diver at Hollywood Park on Dec. 8 or the $75,000 Forty Niner on Dec. 26 at Golden Gate Fields.

It wasn't until shortly before the Cal Cup draw that Morey decided to enter the 4-year-old Bold Chieftain in the Classic rather than the Mile on the turf.

"Two partners wanted to go in the Classic," Morey said. "Another partner and I were looking at the mile, but we all had open minds."

Gentle Charmer came flying wide to upset the Distaff, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race, under Kyle Kaenel.

Trainer Ed Moger Jr. said he was happy for owners Curt and Lila Lanning.

"They deserve it more than anybody," he said. "I told Curt before the race I never loved a horse at 50-1 as much as I loved her in the race."

Looking ahead, Moger said he would like to keep Gentle Charmer on the grass, looking possibly at the one-mile Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood on Nov. 25 or the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Dahlia there on Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, Sierra Sunset had been a slow learner and went through a typical 2-year-old case of bucked shins earlier in the year, according to his trainer, Jeff Bonde.

Bonde brought the colt along slowly and, he said, "a light went on as we breezed him longer distances."

Under Baze, Sierra Sunset repelled a challenge from favored My Redeemer in the stretch, pulling away late in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Although Golden Gate offers the Gold Rush on Dec. 15 and California Derby on Jan. 27, Bonde said the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec.o22 at Hollywood Park would likely be Sierra Sunset's next assignment.

Baze, Hollendorfer finish on top

Despite sitting out a 15-day suspension and taking several important riding assignments out of town, Russell Baze again won the riding title at Bay Meadows, with 78 wins to 46 for the runner-up, apprentice Jose Martinez-Campos. The Bay Meadows meet ended Sunday.

Competition was tighter among the trainers, with Jerry Hollendorfer retaining his title with 47 victories to 41 for runner-up Art Sherman.

* Wednesday's Golden Gate Fields card begins with the day's feature race, a $40,000 starter allowance at one mile. Recent maiden sprint winners Rossmoor and Point Shot take on I'monmywayhome and Gustavo, both coming off runner-up efforts, as well as Devil Cielo and Point of Impact.