Chosen Vron keeps rolling with Cal Cup Sprint at Santa Anita – Orange County Register

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ARCADIA — It was the type of matchup fans like to see. Two state-bred heavyweights – The Chosen Vron and Brickyard Ride – slugging it out during California Cup day on Saturday at Santa Anita.

One, a 6-year-old gelding by Vronsky, went in riding high, having won nine of his past 10 starts. His résumé dictated that the bettors send him off as the 1-9 favorite. He’d won seven of nine at Santa Anita and looked to be the horse to beat.

The other, a 7-year-old son of Clubhouse Ride, had been struggling of late. He’d won only one of his past eight starts and seemed to be tailing off, but he too loves Santa Anita, having won 10 of 16 starts at The Great Race Place.

On paper, it was an intriguing matchup. Two popular Cal-breds, two old warriors duking it out on the race track on a day when five stakes, totaling $900,000 in purses and restricted to Cal-breds, were run.

In the end, it was The Chosen Vron with Hector Berrios aboard who continued to show he’s one of the best Cal-breds in recent years, beating pacesetting Brickyard Ride by 2¼ lengths in the $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint. It was the second time they’ve hooked up and The Chosen Vron has gotten the better of Brickyard Ride both times.

Final time for the 6 furlongs was 1:09.06.

The Chosen Vron, who won six of seven starts in 2023, increased his career bankroll to $1,239,678 with the $90,000 winner’s share. His only defeat last year came in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 when he finished fifth of eight. Trainer Eric Kruljac blamed himself, saying he should have given The Chosen Vron a race between his victory in the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on July 29 and the Breeders’ Cup.

“I knew (Brickyard Ride) had the early speed so I watched him and tried to stay very close,” Berrios said. “I waited and waited along with (Moose Mitchell) and then we moved outside and my horse responded very well. I asked him once and he went on.”

Brickyard Ride’s fractions of 22.41, 45.32 and 57.36 normally would have meant victory for him, but trainer Craig Lewis admits the horse has lost a bit as he’s gotten older.

Said Kruljac of the winner: “He was smart enough to wait at the turn when they spread out a little bit and then he just took off. Hector is tremendous to work with and he is professional.”

Cal Cup Derby

Mici’s Express, the 5-1 fourth choice in a field of five, made it back-to-back wins for trainer Steve Knapp, who also won the third race on the nine-race card. Ridden by Umberto Rispoli, the Slew’s Tiznow colt won the $200,000 race for 3-year-olds by 1½ lengths over Stolen Treasure. It was another 1¼ lengths back to even-money favorite Last Call London in third. Final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:46.75.

Cal Cup Oaks

Trainer Steve Specht shipped Grand Slam Smile, the 2-1 co-favorite, down from Northern California to win the $200,000 event for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. Frank Alvarado, who wins at a 24% clip when he rides for Specht, has ridden the daughter of Smiling Tiger in all six of her races. She beat Asada Fries by 2¼ lengths in the mile race. Final time over a firm turf course was 1:36.59. A fast-closing Sushi Sticks finished third, a half-length behind the runner-up.

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