On a day featuring $1.3 million in purses and 10 stakes for Cal-breds at Santa Anita, the big star of Oak Tree's California Cup was an 18-year-old horse who resides at Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., just outside of Fresno.
Unusual Heat, with a stud fee of $20,000, was the sire of three winners and two second-place finishers Sunday. His 5-year-old son, Mr. Chairman, pulled off the biggest victory of the day, winning by a head over the filly Romance Is Diane in the $250,000 Cal Cup Classic.
Barry Abrams, who trained and co-owns Unusual Heat, the leading sire in California, was ecstatic.
"It's indescribable," he said.
Mr. Chairman, trained by Doug O'Neill and ridden by Michael Baze, had been a turf specialist. But he seemed to enjoy the Pro-Ride surface, wearing down Romance Is Diane in a stretch duel to take the 1 1/8 -mile race in 1:47.93.
"The last sixteenth of a mile, my horse just took off and he finished up great," Baze said.
It was a memorable day for O'Neill because his former champion horse, Lava Man, led the parade to the post prior to the Classic.
"It doesn't get more exciting than this," O'Neill said.
Mr. Chairman is owned by the Great Friends Stable, which is comprised of more than 20 investors and includes San Diego radio personalities Billy Ray Smith and Scott Kaplan.
Abrams had two winners Sunday, and both were produced by Unusual Heat. Lightmyfirebaby won the $150,000 Cal Cup Distaff at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Guts won the $50,000 Cal Cup Starter Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.
One of the most impressive winners was Distant Victory, a 3-year-old filly who improved to four for four on the turf for trainer Carla Gaines in winning the $100,000 Cal Cup Distance Handicap at 1 1/4 miles.
The 16-1 long-shot Famous Ruby, under jockey Joel Rosario, won the $150,000 California Cup Matron at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares. It was the first stakes victory for 28-year-old trainer-owner Jorge Alcala.
Saucey Evening, a 2-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, rallied under jockey Garrett Gomez to win the $125,000 Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
Soft Winds, ridden by jockey Alonso Quinonez, won the $175,000 Cal Cup Mile at 11-1 odds for trainer Victor Garcia.
Northern California invader Tribesman took the $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint at six furlongs for jockey Russell Baze in a stakes-record time of 1:07.85.
Lucky Primo, trained by Martin Jones and ridden by Rosario, won the $125,000 Cal Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles.