Chew thinks the world of Cal Cup races

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - JAY HOVDEY

They are run­ning the Cal­i­for­nia Cup at Santa Anita again on Satur­day, an en­ter­tain­ing sub­sidy of a West Coast breed­ing in­dus­try that was crashed by real es­tate and the re­ces­sion and has set­tled into a fairly steady pro­duc­tion of be­tween 1,600 and 1,700 foals a year. Any­thing for a party. When the Cal Cup was in­tro­duced in 1991, Cal­i­for­nia foals rep­re­sented 13 per­cent of the na­tional crop. Now, the num­ber has dipped below 8 per­cent, which is still good enough to sit just be­hind No. 2 Florida. Ken­tucky’s crop is as large as the next five states com­bined.

Then again, it’s not the size of the crop. It’s what you do with it that counts. Re­cent Santa Mon­ica Stakes win­ner Lost Bus is only the lat­est Cal­i­for­nia-bred to go rogue in a graded event, while the big, red ele­phant in the room is Cal­i­for­nia’s own Cal­i­for­nia Chrome, who used the Cal Cup Derby of 2013 as a launch­ing point for his at­tack on the Triple Crown.

Cal­i­for­nia Chrome is in Dubai pre­par­ing for the $10 mil­lion World Cup, a sum that pretty much would have funded the 2015 and 2016 Golden State Stakes Se­ries, of which the Cal Cup is a part. But enough of that. Jeal­ously is a ter­ri­ble thing.

For many Cal­i­for­nia own­ers and train­ers, the Cal Cup pro­vides not only a day to bask in the spot­light but also a chance to win the kind of money usu­ally re­served for open stakes com­pany. Still, it’s hardly a hand­out. Be­sides Cal­i­for­nia Chrome, the un­wary op­po­si­tion has come up against such West Coast stars as Lava Man, Best Pal, Dream of Sum­mer, Danc­ing in Silks, and Big Jag in Cal Cup events.

“The Cal Cup is es­sen­tially my Breed­ers’ Cup,” said trainer Matt Chew, who will try to win two of the five races on the pro­gram.

“I asked Richard Man­della the other day how many Cal-breds he had in his barn,” said Chew, who is sta­bled next door to the Hall of Fame trainer. “His an­swer was three.”

And, just for con­text, how many Cal-breds does Chew train? “How many stalls do I have?” he replied. Last year, Chew sent out the $32,000 claim Singing Kitty to win the $200,000 Cal Cup Oaks at a mile on the grass. This time around, Singing Kitty will be among the dozen hurtling down the hill­side course in the $150,000 Sun­shine Mil­lions Filly and Mare Sprint.

(Be­fore you ask, the race name is a ves­ti­gial rem­nant of the more com­pre­hen­sive Sun­shine Mil­lions event that once was shared by Gulf­stream Park and Santa Anita. Call it what­ever – it’s a Cal Cup event.)

Singing Kitty is a daugh­ter of Min­is­ters Wild Cat who was bred by Tommy Town Thor­ough­breds and races for Peter Jeong and Chris Aulds. Aulds is a New Mex­ico res­i­dent with a size­able sta­ble there, while Jeong lives lo­cally and has be­come, lit­er­ally, a hands-on owner.

“Peter’s kind of a cheer­leader for her,” Chew said. “He’s at the barn early ev­ery morn­ing be­fore he goes to work at his job as an en­gi­neer de­sign­ing oil-drilling equip­ment. He mas­sages Singing Kitty, and he’s be­come very good at it. In fact, on week­ends he does the whole barn.”

Af­ter win­ning the Cal Cup Oaks a year ago, Singing Kitty was sent af­ter the divi­sion’s best in races like the Santa Anita Oaks and the Hon­ey­moon Stakes, but she found the wa­ter too deep. When pitched per­fect, though, Singing Kitty won a pair of overnight stakes and hit the board in the Grade 3 Au­tumn Miss to wrap up her 2015 sea­son. She prepped in the Mon­rovia Stakes on Jan. 3 and was beaten five lengths by Prize Ex­hibit. Gary Stevens rides her back.

“Gary learned a lot when he rode her,” Chew said. “She was com­ing out of the 1 hole down the hill, and be­cause of the post, he thought he tried to do a lit­tle too much with her by tak­ing her back rather than let­ting her lay a lit­tle closer and do her own thing. Ba­si­cally, I thought he did what he needed to do, and he thought he could have done it bet­ter.”

Later on Satur­day, Chew will sad­dle Im­age of Jo­plin in the $250,000 Cal­i­for­nia Cup Turf Clas­sic at 1 1/8 miles. Dahlberg Farms of San Miguel, Calif., bred the 5-year-old son of South­ern Im­age, who races for Mark Feld’s Lu­cas Downs Ltd.

Im­age of Jo­plin comes into the race with three wins from his last four starts, in­clud­ing a pair of front-run­ning vic­to­ries in his last two ap­pear­ances on the Santa Anita grass. Chew was hop­ing his horse could use that speed to all pos­si­ble ad­van­tage Satur­day, but then an­other trainer went and spoiled those best-laid plans.

“I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed Kenny Black put his horse in there, which gives us some­thing we have to look at for sure,” Chew noted. What a View, the Black horse in ques­tion, comes out of his own front-run­ning score over the Santa Anita turf.

“I thought we’d be the lone speed, but he’s still go­ing to the front,” Chew said. “If the other horse doesn’t take back, they both might be done half­way through the race. But my horse has proven me wrong be­fore, and he’s do­ing so well I thought it was a good time to swing for the fences.”

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