ARCADIA, CA – Robert Baedeker, Michael Pageler, and Michael Sigband’s Heck Yeah showed that he’s a force to be reckoned with, no matter the surface or distance, after wiring a field of 10 other foes in his first two-turn start in Monday’s $200,000 California Cup Derby at Santa Anita.
Sent away well from post 4 as the even-money favorite under Mike Smith, Heck Yeah took command and initially dueled with Intimidate before slowly gaining a lead while posting fractions of :23.03, :47.01, and 1:12.52. Strong winds down the back side slowed the field, as Heck Yeah’s fractions showed. Hitting the top of the stretch with a 3-length lead while still in hand, the Bob Baffert trainee began to weaken slightly, but he held on under urging to cross with a 1 1/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:46.60 for the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“I was telling Bob that down the backstretch, I felt like I was in the Olympics (with this headwind),” Smith said. “I was trying to be as aerodynamic as possible. It was really strong and it took its toll on all of them in there. I wanted him to stay in that nice rhythm and we were able to hold them off down the lane.”
Violent Ridge rallied well late to take second by 3 3/4 lengths over Continental Divide. Fourth went to Fire When Ready, with fifth going to Campaigner. The rest of the field came across in the order of Black Site, Hardboot, Faversham, Intimidate, Kaleidoscope Kid, and Lucky Romano.
Heck Yeah’s win was his third in as many career starts and increased his lifetime bankroll to $194,000. After breaking his maiden over the Los Alamitos dirt at 5 1/2 furlongs in December, the 3-year-old son of Acclamation took the California Cup Turf Sprint Stakes on Santa Anita’s 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf course on January 27.
As for which surface he’ll run across next, Baffert seemed undecided.
“I’m really proud of this horse,” he said. “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.”
Heck Yeah returned $3.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.40 to show. Violent Ridge brought back $5.80 to place and $4.60 to show, while Continental Divide paid $5.80 to show.