All things considered, Kent Desormeaux would rather have been in Louisville.
Never mind that he followed up four winners Friday with five Saturday, including a stroll aboard Waterscape in the $81,000 Morvich Handicap, to take command in the Oak Tree jockey standings.
Desormeaux would have given up all the victories for a seat aboard Twilight Agenda in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Instead, he watched Chris McCarron ride the 5-year-old Devil's Bag horse to a second-place finish behind Black Tie Affair. In his two tries on Twilight Agenda, Desormeaux was second in the Pacific Classic and won the Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup.
"I wish every day was Breeders' Cup Day--not really," he said. "I still would rather have ridden Twilight Agenda."
Seeking his second consecutive riding title at Oak Tree, Desormeaux leads Pat Valenzuela, 35-28, after winning five of the final six races Saturday. This probably isn't of much concern to Valenzuela, who won Breeders' Cup races with Opening Verse and Arazi.
Although his final margin was only three-quarters of a length, none of Desormeaux's Saturday winners came easier than Waterscape.
A true downhill specialist, the 5-year-old Water Bank gelding won for the fourth time in seven tries over the Santa Anita course in beating Hollywood Reporter and four others. With a 3 1/2-length lead a furlong from the finish, the 3-5 favorite was being eased in the final yards.
Trained by Scott Henry, who got his start working for Mel Stute and Ron McAnally, Waterscape equaled the course record for about 6 1/2 furlongs for the second time in less than a month. In his comeback race Oct. 13, which came after he'd been sidelined since April 20, he won in 1:11 4/5. He matched that clocking Saturday.
"All you have to do is aim him and shoot," Desormeaux said. "He was pricking his ears. I wish I'd ridden him the first time I ever rode on the hill. He could have showed me the way."
Hollywood Reporter, who had upset $100,000 claimers at 50-1 Oct. 4, was a bit more than two lengths in front of Anjiz. Then came Qui Danzig, Scottish Castle and Sir Beaufort. Lanner was scratched off the program.
Best Pal, who must carry 124 pounds, will start in Saturday's $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita. The 1 1/8-mile Classic is the richest event in the seven-race Cup, which is restricted to California breds.
A 3-year-old son of Habitony, Best Pal will be the most accomplished thoroughbred running Saturday, and he also figures to be the shortest price.
There had been some discussion Best Pal might skip the Cal Cup in favor of the Carleton F. Burke Handicap Nov. 11, which would have marked his first start on turf. However, owner John Mabee decided to go in the Classic.
"I still think that's too much weight for a 3-year-old to be carrying," trainer Gary Jones said. "Evidently, the horse turned 4 when he won that race at Del Mar."
Jones was referring to Best Pal's victory in the Pacific Classic American Championship Series race when he upset Twilight Agenda, Festin, Farma Way and Unbridled, among others.
"It's not so much the weight he's carrying as it is how much weight he has to spot," Jones said.
Best Pal will be giving away at least seven pounds, but he isn't catching a field overflowing with talent.
The Mile turf race has the second-richest purse ($150,000), and the co-highweights at 120 pounds are Blaze O'Brien and Bruho. The latter, who was assigned 119 for the Classic, is out of training because of an injury.
Following at 119 is French Seventyfive, a recent winner over the Santa Anita grass. Gum, who won the inaugural Mile last year, was given 117.
Bel's Starlet is the probable starting high weight at 120 pounds in the Distaff, which is run at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Survive and Somethingmerry were weighted ahead of her, but neither will start.
Bruho was also the highweight for the six-furlong Sprint, which may be the most interesting race on the card. Likely participants include Answer Do (121), Letthebighossroll (118), defending champion Valiant Pete (118) and Burn Annie (117).
The other California Cup races are the Matron, which is for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt; the Distaff Starter, for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles; and the Starter, for colts and geldings at 1 1/8 miles.
Island Jamboree, the runner-up in the race last year, is the 3-1 morning line favorite for today's $87,000 Louis R. Rowan Handicap at a mile on the turf.
The 7-2 second choice is Agirlfromars, who defeated Island Jamboree by three-quarters of a length in a recent allowance race at the Rowan distance. The rest of the field includes Reluctant Guest and Quilma (4-1), Queenemara (5-1), Re Toss (8-1), Native Twine and Tasteful T.V. (20-1) and Zapateado (30-1).