California Cup Derby Could Produce Kentucky Derby Contender

There is over $1 million up for grabs at Santa Anita on Saturday afternoon on Sunshine Millions California Cup Day (photo credit:

While most of the U.S. is under frigid conditions, it will be a cool 80 degrees on Saturday for Sunshine Millions California Cup Day at Santa Anita, and one race could produce a Kentucky Derby contender.

The $250,000 California Cup Derby drew a field of 11 three-year-olds that will go  1 1/16 miles on the main track, and while it is not a Derby points race, there are several in the field that we could see heading down the Derby trail this spring.

The most accomplished in the field is the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Tamarando, who won the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last September. His last outing was a third in the CashCall Futurity (G1) behind Shared Belief, who is currently the early Derby betting favorite at odds of 7-1.

Aotearoa won the Zuma Beach on turf last October and other stakes winners in the field are Palmer Futurity winner Life Is a Joy, King Glorious winner California Chrome, and Better Bet, who won the Golden State Futurity in November.

There are six stakes on the Santa Anita card with $1.1 million up for grabs. Five of the stakes are restricted to state breds, and the stakes action starts with the $200,000 Santa Monica (G2) which drew a field of seven that will go seven furlongs on the main track.

At Gulfstream Park 11 will go to the post in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G2) with 17 Derby points up for grabs, 10 to the winner. The highly regarded Cairo Prince will make his three-year-old debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The colt won the Nashua (G2) and then came up a neck short to Honor Code in the Remsen (G2).

The co-feature at Gulfstream Park is the $$200,000 Forward Gal (G2) at seven furlongs that drew six three-year-old fillies. The undefeated Todd Pletcher trainee Onlyforyou is the 7-5 morning line favorite.

Only five will go in Aqueduct’s feature on Saturday, the $$100,000 Ladies Handicap. The top three finishers of the Affectionately return. Teen Pauline took the field gate to wire to win that race and is the 8-5 morning line favorite.

Racing was canceled on Friday at Aqueduct due to the frigid temperatures, but we should be good to go on Saturday as the forecast is for a balmy 30 degrees with a chance we could see as much of an inch of snow.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes all of the stakes action from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.

Let’s head out to Santa Anita for Saturday’s featured race of the day:



Santa Anita Race 10 The California Cup Derby (4:30 PT)

6 Aotearoa    10-1

4 Tamarando   9-5

7 California Chrome   5-2

5 Lucky Views   8-1


Analysis: Aotearoa is making his first start on conventional dirt here for the Leonard Powell barn. Last out the gelding broke awkwardly and was not a threat in a sixth place finish in the state bred King Glorious behind a couple of these over Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. His best effort tin his career was a sharp win in the open Zuma Beach on turf here back in October. Two back the gelding made a good late rally to finish in the runner up spot in the Generous (G2) on grass. He picks up Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens here and if he takes to dirt, he is going to be in the mix here at a decent price.

Tamarando was off at the back of the pack last out and made a good late run to finish third last out in the CashCall Futurity (G1), beaten seven lengths by early Kentucky Derby favorite Shared Belief. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee is the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, taking the Del Mar Futurity last September over polytrack. In his two dirt starts he was a decent third in the Frontrunner(G1) where he did not break cleanly and was third in the state bred Golden St. Juvenile behind a couple of these. The colt has a nice pedigree, out of the graded stakes placed Tamarack Bay ($218,965) who has dropped three other talented runners including stakes winner Luckarack ($526,395). The main knock is going to be the short price.

California Chrome was a sharp winner of the state bred King Glorious last out over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park going seven furlongs, drawing away to win by 6 1/4 lengths. He was off poorly two back on the main track here ion the Golden St. Juvenile where he checked in sixth, beaten three lengths. The colt has plenty of pedigree to handle the stretch out to two turns. The Art Sherman barn is 33% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from sprint to route.



WIN: #6 to win at 9-2 or better.

EX: 4,6 / 4,5,6,7

TRI: 4,6 / 4,5,6,7 / 1,4,5,6,7


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