Multiple stakes winner Acceptance, who is unbeaten in three starts for trainer Don Warren, and Tough Sunday, a horse who has overcome being born deaf and blind and abandoned at birth, headline a field of eight California-bred or -sired 3-year-olds in the $250,000 California Cup Derby Jan. 24 at Santa Anita Park.
Bred by Old English Rancho and owned by E.W. and Judy Johnston and Robert Riggio, Acceptance broke his maiden at first asking by 13-1/4 lengths and comes off emphatic wins versus state-breds in the one-mile King Glorious Stakes on Dec. 14, and in the seven-furlong Golden State Juvenile Nov. 1.
Eventual Horse of the Year California Chrome took the King Glorious and Cal Cup Derby last year as part of a six-race win streak capped by a score in the Preakness Stakes after victories in the San Felipe Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Kentucky Derby.
CALIFORNIA CUP DERBY DRAW
By Vronsky and out of the Perfect Mandate mare Allswellthatnswell, Acceptance has banked $257,600 -- easily making him the leading money earner in this year's edition of the 1-1/16-mile event.
Tough Sunday, who is owned by breeder Nick Alexander and trained by Steve Miyadi, comes off an impressive 6 3/4-length state-bred maiden special weight win going seven furlongs on Dec. 28.
Tough Sunday endured a difficult birth in which his umbilical cord became compromised, resulting in a lack of blood flow and oxygen. In addition to being born deaf and blind due to the lack of oxygen, he lacked a nursing instinct, and as a result, was abandoned by his mother.
The son of Grazen will try a route of ground for the first time in his fourth career start and will be ridden back by Tyler Baze.
When asked about his chances stretching out, Baze responded, "I love this horse."
Alexander also has Kluszewski, named for the former major league slugger Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski. The colt finished third for trainer Phil D'Amato, beaten 3-1/2 lengths in the King Glorious, and will be making his sixth start on Saturday.
Second, beaten three lengths by Acceptance in the King Glorious, Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams' homebred Pulmarack broke his maiden going a mile two starts back and merits respect in what will be his fifth career try.
Although a well beaten fourth at 3-1 in the King Glorious, Griffen Thoroughbred Stables' Mischief Clem will try to rebound for the potent team of Kent Desormeaux and Bob Hess Jr.