Trainer Peter Miller was worried he might not have Thirsty John fit enough for Saturday’s Cal Cup Derby at Santa Anita off an eight-month layoff, but his plan worked out just fine on a racing day devoted to Cal-breds.
Miller had Thirsty John fit enough to go gate to wire and hold off stablemate Giver Not a Taker by a half length in the $200,000 race for 3-year-olds. Ridden by Juan Hernandez, the winner ran the 1 1/16 miles over the main track in 1: 45.51 at odds of 2-1.It was only the second start of the Stay Thirsty colt’s career. He won his debut by 3 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on May 14 before being sidelined. The winner’s share of $120,000 improved Thirsty John’s earnings to $160,200.
“I told Terry Lovingier (part owner/breeder) he’s a good horse, but if he wins this race off of the layoff, he’s a very good horse,” Miller said. “I think he showed today that he’s a really good horse. That’s kind of what we thought about him, but I didn’t know if we had him fit enough to do this off an eight-month layoff and only one start.”
Said Hernandez: “On the dirt, that’s a really comfortable pace (23.45, 47.68 and 1: 11.90) for the horses, especially for a horse that is returning from a big layoff. I have to give a lot of credit to Peter Miller because he brought this horse ready to win. For the last stretch, I just used motion and hand riding. In the end, he got the job done.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez guided Coalinga Road to victory by a neck over Aligato in the $200,000 turf event for 4-year-olds and up. The victory was the 6-year-old gelded son of Quality Road’s fourth in 18 starts as the 3-1 third choice in the betting ran his earnings to $360,600.
Coalinga Road, fifth after the first three-quarters, rallied in the stretch to give trainer Carla Gaines her second stakes victory of the day. Aligato held second by a neck over 30-1 longshot Luvluv in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. Final time was 1: 49.79.
Cal Cup Oaks
Grazed My Heart rallied from seventh in the eight-horse field of 3-year-old fillies to win the $200,000 turf race for jockey Hector Berrios and trainer Jeff Mullins by a nose over pacesetter Sell the Dream.Final time for the 1 mile over a grass course labeled good because of this week’s rain was 1: 37.41. Grazed My Heart, the 5-1 fourth choice in the wagering, hiked her earnings to $198,020 with the winner’s share of $110,000. The Grazen filly has won two of seven starts.
Cal Cup Sprint
The Chosen Vron, the 2-5 favorite with Berrios aboard, went gate to wire to win the $150,000 stakes by a neck over the hard-charging Big City Lights. The 5-year-old gelded son of Vronsky ran the 6 furlongs in 1: 08.96 while winning his fourth consecutive race.
Trained by Eric Kruljac, The Chosen Vron carved out splits of 22.07, 44.36 and 56.60 en route to his ninth victory in 13 starts. The winner’s share of $90,000 improved his career earnings to $612,678.
Filly/Mare Turf Sprint
Big Summer, ridden by Joe Bravo and trained by Gaines, came from off the pace to win the $150,000 race down the hillside turf course by three-quarters of a length over Eddie’s New Dream. Final time for the 6 1/2 furlongs was 1: 13.10.
The winner, a 5-year-old Mr. Big mare who was sent postward at 7-2, won for the fourth time in 10 starts and increased her career bankroll to $315,160 with the winner’s share of $90,000. She’s a perfect 3 for 3 down the hillside course.