Standout performances by the likes of Brickyard Ride, Legg Galore, and Aligato carried Santa Anita Park to its best Cal Cup Day handle since 2007: an all-sources pari-mutuel handle of more than $17.2 million.
“We were very pleased with field size and the tremendous response from our fans nationwide,” Santa Anita Senior Vice President and General Manager Nate Newby told the track’s Mike Willman. “We averaged 8.1 horses per race and it was great to see so many familiar faces, older horses, geldings, and fillies and mares. I think that underscores the tremendous horsemanship we continue to see here in California and our fans love it because they get familiar with these horses, and they truly look forward to watching them run and betting on them.”
Traditionally run in mid-January, Santa Anita’s Cal Cup Day features five well-funded stakes races for Cal-breds. Often, those races unveil horses who make waves down the line and horses worth watching in future starts. Horses such as California Chrome, who won the Cal Cup Derby by more than seven lengths in 2014. That vaulted him to victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes later that year.
This year’s Cal Cup Derby unveiled Fast Draw Munnings, who ran down 4/5 favorite Straight Up G in deep stretch, prevailing by a neck at 4/1. But probably the most impressive outing came from one of those familiar horses Newby alluded to, Brickyard Ride.
Brickyard Ride loves Cal Cup Day
The 5-year-old son of Clubhouse Ride captured the Cal Cup Sprint, going gate-to-wire and defending his 2021 title in the same event. Juan Hernandez piloted 8/5 favorite Brickyard Ride to a 1 ¾-length victory and a 101 Beyer Speed Figure over six furlongs.
“He’s an extremely talented horse. He’s very fast and I’m happy with the result,” trainer Craig Lewis said after the race. “We hope we’re on to bigger and better things. Clubhouse Ride is really making a name for himself as a stud in California and we just hope there’s some more coming. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of some Clubhouse Ride 2-year-olds. This may be a lot to ask for, but we hope there’s another Brickyard Ride in there.”
Brickyard Ride was idle since finishing a poor ninth in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 28. His Cal Cup Sprint score came with a 110 Equibase Speed Figure – 40 points better than his Pat O’Brien figure.
Leggs Galore opens her final season strong
Also returning from a lengthy layoff from the winner’s circle was 5/2 second-choice Leggs Galore. Like Brickyard Ride, she defended her title from last year, capturing the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint gate-to-wire. Her 2 ¼-length victory down the 6 ½-furlong hillside turf course brought the 5-year-old daughter of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Bayern a 96 Beyer.
That came in Leggs Galore’s first race since finishing fourth in the Aug. 15, state-bred Solana Beach Stakes at Del Mar.
“We will check our options, but down the road, we want to see if we can get a graded stake win and make her a broodmare at the end of the year,” trainer Phil D’Amato said after the race.
Keep an eye on Aligato around two turns
Another older horse to watch is Aligato, who won the Unusual Heat Classic by 1 ¾ lengths. The lightly raced 5-year-old gelding picked up his first stakes victory in his fifth start. He turned in a solid 87 Beyer for his 1 1/8-mile turf trek as the 3/1 second choice.
Despite his light resume, Aligato has never missed the board in five races (2-1-2).
“We always thought he would improve when we had a chance to go further with him,” trainer Mark Glatt said after the race. “It wasn’t the most ideal circumstances today, but I think that just shows you how good of a horse he is. He’s just a very good horse, particularly for a Cal-bred. He’s a natural two-turn horse, which helps when you’re stretching one out.”