Two $15,000 California Sires Stakes for freshman colts & geldings were the featured events at Cal Expo on Saturday night (November 19), on which El Azteca & Ra Ra Steven remained at the top of their class.
In the first division, this for the trotters, El Azteca made if four for four in his career, all in Sires Stakes.
Leaving from post-position two in the field of four for breeder/owner/trainer Marco Rios, the pair made an easy lead after a sixteenth of a mile into a very easy :32.2 opening quarter. With the field now approaching the three-eighths mile marker, Rios had a bold and quick moving surprise from the longshot on the board.
"When I saw Lees Persuader (Jim Lackey), I wasn't going to let him go because I know the horse and he can make a break - - so I let out a notch on my horse," stated Rios.
With Lees Persuader now at the wheel of El Azteca at the 7-16ths mile pole and prompting, the colt was still able to trot a :32.2 second-quarter while reaching the half-mile station, timed in 1:04.2. Now on the final-turn and getting light whip taps past the five-eighths mile pole while rebuffing the challenge of Lees Persuader, El Azteca reached the three-quarter mile marker in 1:35.2. With the field now at the head of the lane and El Azteca drawing clear by two-lengths, the pocket sitting Light Red (Lemoyne Svendsen) made a self-costing break.
"When Light Red made the break, that didn't have any bearing on the outcome because I hadn't used my horse - - he was very strong at that point. And he stayed real strong, he was perfect through the stretch."
Opening up three-lengths with a little more than an eighth of a mile to go, the son of Panama Hanover-Jonathan's Girl would cruise home to a very easy victory ($3.60) by 3-1/4 lengths, in 2:05.3, a lifetime best. Loose Cannon (Steve Wiseman) finished in second, and Lees Persuader finished another 11-lengths farther back, an inherited third.
"I haven't turned him loose yet at all in any of his four starts. All he wants to do is win," finished Rios.
In the second and final division, this for the pacers, Ra Ra Steven repeated.
Getting the lead after an eighth of a mile from post-three in the field of five for pilot Rich Wojcio, the gelding cut of first-half fractions of :29.2 & :59.1. Letting out a notch on his pacer past the five-eighths mile juncture, then urging him once at the midway point of the final-turn, Wojcio made good use of his knowledge.
"He paces the turns well and from what I've seen of the two horses he has to beat, Hollywood Star (Lemoyne Svendsen) & Bloom N Doom (Bruce Clarke), they aren't as handy on the turns," noted Wojcio. "So I figured if I could get a little cushion at that point that I should try to take advantage of it, and he responded very willingly when I called on him."
Opening up strongly when asked and on top by 2-1/2 lengths at the three-quarter mile pole, timed in 1:28.2, the son of Little Steven-Ra Ra Rosa was in full gear and looking tough to catch, then under urging in the stretch opened up three-lengths and was home free despite under a strong drive to be kept to his task.
Bred in part by owner Billie Schwartz, and in partnership with David Rachford and trainer Jim Wilkinson Jr., Ra Ra Steven won ($4.40) by 2-3/4 lengths, in 1:57.1, a lifetime mark. Hollywood Star had a nice late rally to finish in second, and Bloom N Doom finished 3-3/4-lengths farther back, in third.
"Each start he has gotten better, but this was by far his best because that was a pretty decent mile. My thanks as always to Junior (Jim Wilkinson) and the owners for allowing me to drive the horse," concluded Wojcio.
This week will find an abbreviated schedule, with programs on Friday (November 25) and Saturday (November 26) at 6:00 p.m., but no racing on Thanksgiving Thursday, November 24. The regular three-night schedule will resume on Thursday, December 1 and continues through December 18. On Friday and every live card, Cal Expo offers free parking & free admission after 4:30 p.m. Also on Friday, Cal Expo offers Happy Hour between 6:00-8:30 p.m., where $2 Beer, $2 Wine & $2 Buffalo Wings an order is offered.
Cal Expo now offers a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on all Pick 4’s (Thursday/Friday nights in partnership with the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee). In addition, all Late Pick 4’s will come with a $10,000-guaranteed pool. On Saturday night, there will be a 0% takeout on successful Late Pick 4 tickets made at Cal Expo or at Twinspires.com.