ARCADIA, CA – Trainer Bob Baffert isn’t known for training strong turf runners, but Michael Pageler’s homebred Heck Yeah may change that after convincingly taking Saturday’s $100,000 California Cup Turf Sprint Stakes at Santa Anita.
Off a bit slowly from post 2 under Drayden Van Dyke, Heck Yeah sat off early and slowly progressed down the hill while Bookies Luck set blistering early splits of :20.94 and :43.28. Transitioning through the far turn, Heck Yeah hit the top of the stretch in third while three-wide but quickly turned on the jets. Coming under a drive from Van Dyke, Heck Yeah drove off in the final stages to win by 2 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:13.61 for the 6 1/2-furlong event.
“I thought he would be a little bit closer, but he wasn’t, so I just let him fall into place,” Van Dyke said. “Coming into that turn, I had a lot of horse left. He was doing it easy and I tried to work my way out once I crossed the dirt.”
Psycho Dar rallied late to take second by a head over Campaigner, while Vutzak necked out fourth past Cono. Sixth went to Night At the Opera, while Bookies Luck, Sunrise Journey, Raven Creek, Continental Divide, Ministersdontparty, and Sir Valentine completed the order of finish. Hardboot was scratched.
A winner on debut over the dirt at Los Alamitos in early December, Heck Yeah successfully handled transitioning to Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course. His connections were confident that he would handle the grass due to his pedigree; his sire, Acclamation, was a multiple graded stakes winner on both dirt and turf, while his dam, Lutess, was a regular on the Southern California turf claiming circuit.
“This is my first stakes winner and the first horse I’ve ever bred,” said Pageler, who co-owns with Robert Baedeker and Michael Sigband. “The mother is the first horse I ever owned.”
Heck Yeah returned $6.40 to win, $5 to place, and $3.60 to show. Psycho Dar brought back $12.40 to place and $7.40 to show, while Campaigner paid $6.40 to show.