ARCADIA, California — Mischief Clem outdueled Pulmarack by a head to win the $250,000 California Cup Derby for 3-year-olds in a photo finish Saturday at Santa Anita, highlighting five races for California-bred or sired horses worth $1 million in purses.
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, 11-1 long shot Mischief Clem ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.82 and paid $25.60, $9.60 and $13.40. The colt has finished third or better in five of his six career starts, but had lost his last three races.
This time, he outlasted Pulmarack under Desormeaux's left-handed whip along the rail.
"He'd either miss a start, hop a start, get stuck inside or last time he was just too aggressive," Desormeaux said. "Today he was finally able to put everything together. I was able to ride him off my finger tips and he was just the consummate professional."
California Chrome won last year's Cal Cup Derby before going on to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and being named Horse of the Year.
Pulmarack returned $7.40 and $10.80 at 8-1 odds. Kluszewski, a 13-1 shot named for former major league slugger Ted Kluszewski, paid $14.80 to show.
Drayden Van Dyke, aboard Pulmarack, said the colt never switched to his right lead.
"I think he's still a little green," the Eclipse Award-winning jockey said. "If he switches leads, he would win the race."
Tough Sunday, a colt who overcame being born deaf and blind after being abandoned by his mother, finished last in the seven-horse field. He was coming off a 6 1/4-length win on the same track last month. Sent off at 7-2 odds, Tough Sunday was second at the half-mile pole before fading under Tyler Baze. Luxury car dealer Nick Alexander bred and owns Kluszewski and Tough Sunday.
Tough Sunday endured a difficult birth in which his umbilical cord became compromised, resulting in a lack of blood flow and oxygen, which caused his deafness and blindness. He also lacked a nursing instinct, and as a result, was abandoned by his mother.
"The one (Tough Sunday) kind of got in trouble out of the gate and that kind of changed the complexion of the race," winning trainer Bob Hess Jr. said. "I thought the one would go to the front, the two would lay second, and I thought we'd be third. When the one broke slowly and got blocked, then it became more of a jockeys' race."
Acceptance, the 1-2 favorite, finished fourth, losing for the first time in four career races.
"Right now I'm a little bit mystified because he had everything his own way," said Kenny Black, assistant to trainer Don Warren. "He got a little hot going to the gate, so that's a little concerning. He was working good and doing everything right, he just didn't have it today."
In the other stakes:
—Alert Bay survived an inquiry claim to edge Boozer and win the $250,000 Cal Cup Turf Classic. Ridden by Tyler Baze, Alert Bay ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.62 and paid $7.80, $4 and $3 as the 5-2 favorite. The stewards ruled Alert Bay didn't interfere with G.G. Ryder along the rail in the upper stretch. Patriots Rule was third.
—Singing Kitty overtook 9-5 favorite Heat the Rocks in the stretch to win the $200,000 Cal Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies by one length. Ridden by Aaron Gryder, Singing Kitty ran one mile on the turf in 1:35.70 and paid $17.40, $6 and $3.40 at 7-1 odds. Heat the Rocks returned $3.60 and $2.60 in her first start on turf, while Light One was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.40 to show.
—Go West Marie won the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint by three-quarters of a length under Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. She ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.18 and paid $13, $7.20 and $5. Home Journey returned $16.60 and $9.80, while More Complexity paid $8.60 to show.
—Spirit Rules rallied to hold off 3-5 favorite San Onofre and win the $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint by a half-length. Iggy Puglisi guided Spirit Rules over six furlongs in 1:10.31. The 6-year-old gelding paid $26.20 to win at 12-1 odds. Follini was third.
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