Wins California Cup Derby on Lead
Despite being pressured heavily on the early lead, and facing a strong headwind, Bob Baffert’s Heck Yeah went on to an easy 1 1/4- length win in Monday’s $200,000 California Cup Derby, his first time going two turns.
Ridden by Mike Smith, the California-bred colt by Acclamation was timed in 1:46.60 for 1 1/16 mile.
Heck Yeah was a runaway 5 1/4 length first-out maiden winner going 5 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 7 at Los Alamitos, Heck Yeah is now unbeaten in three starts. He came into the race fresh off victory in the Cal Cup Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course on Jan. 27.
Heck Yeah was sent from post 4 at the start. He was engaged immediately around the first turn to his inside by Intimidate, who tired three furlongs out and finished ninth under Corey Nakatani. Ridden by Geovanni Franco, Violent Ridge, who broke from the rail, was an attending fourth early and finished well to be second while finishing 3 3/4 lengths in front of Continental Divide.
Owned by his breeder, Michael Pageler, and by Dr. Michael Sigband and Bob Baedeker, Heck Yeah picked up $110,000 for the win, boosting his earnings to $194,000. The 4-5 favorite in a field of 11 California-bred or sired 3-year-olds, Heck Yeah paid $3.80, $2.60 and $2.40 to his backers.
Fractions on the race were 23.03, 47.01, 1:12.52 and 1:39.45.
Bob Baffert, winning trainer: “I know this is the first Derby of the year that I’ve won. I’m really proud of this horse. Naturally, I think he’s a better turf horse, but he gutted it out today. He showed his class when he broke his maiden over the dirt at Los Al. He’s quick, he’s got stamina, he’s gutsy and he has a lot of heart. You should bet him! He was very professional. The good horses show their stuff early. We saw that he was a nice horse early in his training. I’m just glad to be a part of it. We’ve got a good group here.”
Mike Smith, winning rider: “I was telling Bob that down the backstretch I felt like I was in the Olympics (with the headwind). I was trying to be as aerodynamic as possible. It was really strong, and it took its toll on all of them in there. We had enough to hold them off though. I wanted him to stay in that nice rhythm and we were able to hold them off down the lane.”
Mike Pageler, breeder and co-owner: “This is great, more than I expected, really. This colt is the second foal out of the mare (Lutess). We’ve got a 2-year-old colt by Coil and she’s in Kentucky now to be bred to Arrogate. It’s up to Bob, but I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a shot at one of those points races.”
Geovanni Franco, second on Violent Ridge: “He settled real nice with me, and he was very kind down the backside. I like the way he finished and he’s going to get better. The winner is a nice horse.”
By Downey Downey with content from Santa Anita release