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ALL STAR LONG SHOT: BET AMERICAN.

Byline: KEVIN MODESTI

ARCADIA - California Cup Classic history suggests that if you bet on Saturday's main event at Santa Anita, you should look for an All-American long shot.

The Cal Cup, the 10-race showcase for Cal-bred horses that will be held for the 17th time, has been popular with fans because its generally large fields and fresh match-ups produce bigger payoffs than the higher-quality stakes. In the past five years -- that's 50 races -- not a single Cal Cup winner has returned less than even-money.

The Classic takes the trend to extremes. Four of the race's past six winners, and six in its 16 years, have paid 10-1 or higher.

The promoters remind us about big-name Classic winners such as Best Pal, Budroyale and Sky Jack. Bettors might prefer to reminisce about Charmonnier (28-1), College Town (33-1) and Cozy Guy (20-1).

Is this year's $250,000 Cal Cup Classic, the feature on the Breeders' Cup-style card, ripe for another upset?

It looks that way.

Morning-line favorite TopThis and That (5-2) has been consistently good at the Classic's 1 1/8-mile distance, where he ran second to HighLimit in the 2005 Strub Stakes in February. But TopThis and That has blown a lot of races he should have won -- he has never finished first in seven starts as the favorite.

Morning-line second choice Texcess (3-1) has been picking up small checks by running in graded-level stakes, chasing Lava Man twice last winter and Giacomo at Del Mar. But Texcess hasn't actually won a race since 2004 -- a 16-race slump.

Cal Cup winners often are horses whose credentials appear modest for races with such generous purses.

As long as we're willing to back a flawed horse in the Classic, though, we should demand better than 5-2 and 3-1.

How does American All Star sound at 15-1?

Trainer Mike Machowsky, who claimed the 6-year-old gelding from Ted H. West for $50,000 at Del Mar, had trouble finding a race earlier in Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet and wound up sending him to the $63,000 Bulldog Stakes at the Fresno Fair. At 12-1, American All Star and jockey Danny Boag opened a big lead and held on to win the 1-mile race by a nose over Swiss Lad.

American All Star is sort of the opposite of Top This and That. He has frequently run well when he wasn't supposed to -- he has the Bulldog victory and two third-place finishes in his past three starts at 10-1 odds or higher.

Even though the Cal Cup Classic is only two weeks after the Bulldog, Machowsky saw that the Santa Anita race was drawing a light field, and he persuaded American All Star's owners to put up a $1,000 late nominating fee. He drew post 7 in a field of nine.

American All Star, a son of American Day, has lost 22 times in 29 starts. He's 3 for 8 on dirt, though.

One knock on his chances is that there could be other front-runners to bother him in the Classic, including, potentially, sprinters McNasty (30-1) and Seven Nation Army (10-1). But American All Star has Patrick Valenzuela riding for the first time, always a confidence boost for speed bettors.

Machowsky told an Oak Tree publicist that American All Star's feet have cooled down since he began training on Hollywood Park's synthetic surface.

``I've just been galloping him at Hollywood, and he's really blossomed there,'' Machowsky said.

The Classic field of 3-year-olds and up, from the rail out: McNasty (Tyler Baze riding), 113 pounds; Robador (David Cohen), 116, 4-1; Seven Nation Army (Martin Garcia), 112; Cheroot (Martin Pedroza), 116, 8-1; King Mobay (David Flores), 113, 12-1; Iced Out (Garrett Gomez), 112, 5-1; American All Star, 115;

Top This and That (Alex Solis), 116, and Texcess (Victor Espinoza), 118.

The picks here: 1. American All Star, 2. Texcess, 3. Robador, 4. Top This and That.

Other Cal Cup Day attractions:

Although Cal-breds Lava Man, California's leading older horse, and Brother Derek, the Santa Anita Derby winner, will skip the Cal Cup to run in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, their trainers will be active Saturday.

Doug O'Neill has horses in five races, including Cambiocorsa (Jon Court) in the $150,000 Cal Cup Distaff Handicap, Areyoutalkintome (Gomez) in the $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint, and Iced Out and King Mobay in the Classic. Hendricks has Top This and That in the Classic.

``We almost entered Brother Derek (in the Cal Cup Classic) as a rabbit, but (owner) Cecil Peacock wouldn't go for it,'' Hendricks joked.

Cambiocorsa goes into the Distaff with an 8-for-8 record in Santa Anita 's 6(bul)-furlong turf races. Her opponents are a combined 0 for 6 on the downhill course.

McCann's Mojave (Jose Valdivia Jr.), the 2005 Classic winner, runs in the $175,000 Cal Cup Mile on turf this time. The 6-year-old has raced once since March.

heymodesti(AT_SIGN)aol.com

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OUT OF THE GATE

- Kevin Modesti
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 27, 2006
Words:838
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