Luthier Fever Runs Better Than Best Pal on California Cup Day : Santa Anita: Trainer Jones caps an excellent day with 1 1/4-length victory in Classic.


With Best Pal, trainer Gary Jones has experienced the entire range of the spectrum in the California Cup Classic.

He was the conditioner when the richest California-bred in history was beaten as the 2-5 favorite in the 1991 Classic, and he was still the gelding’s boss when he won the race two years later.

On Saturday, Jones was the one upsetting Best Pal, who is now in Richard Mandella’s barn.

Luthier Fever, ridden to perfection by Gary Stevens, won the $250,00 centerpiece of Saturday’s California Cup at Santa Anita, taking over from 105-1 shot Warning Label around the turn, then going on to beat the 4-5 favorite by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:48 3/5 for the 1 1/8 miles.


This made for a perfect day for Jones, who earlier had saddled Lakeway for her first victory in about 16 months in the Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup at Louisville, Ky.

Close but unable to beat the likes of Soul Of The Matter, Alphabet Soup and Blumin Affair in his most recent starts, Luthier Fever appreciated the drop in class against California-breds and won for the third time in 11 1995 starts.

At the top of the stretch, Best Pal, who couldn’t have asked for a better trip, seemed to be gaining on the 7-2 second choice, but, despite the urging of jockey Chris McCarron, track announcer Trevor Denman and a large portion of the 34,220 fans, he made little impression in the final quarter of a mile.

In the process, owner John and Betty Mabee’s homebred continued a streak that has seen him fail to win consecutive races since 1992.

“I’ve got no excuses,” Mandella said. “He ran well, he just didn’t run well enough. I thought he had dead aim on [Luthier Fever] at the quarter pole, but the winner had something left.

“I don’t think anyone is going to jump off a bridge over it. He gave it a good effort, and he just got beat. I don’t know what’s next. With him, everything’s wait and see.”

From Luthier Fever’s inside post, he figured to be in front early, but when Antonio Castanon and Warning Label insisted on it, Stevens got his companion to relax, and that proved key.

“I got lucky and was able to shift out down the backside and put him on the outside,” said Stevens, who also won the Distaff with 7-1 shot Klassy Kim. “He was very, very relaxed the whole trip and he’s got a heck of a kick whenever he settles like he did today. . . .

“When I called on him at the quarter pole, he really hit another gear and he was able to sustain it all the way through the stretch.”

One race before Best Pal was upset, another gutsy gelding was able to come through.

Megan’s Interco, a 6-year-old son of Interco who has battled physical problems throughout his career, won his second Cal Cup Mile, easily defeating Patriotaki and five others in the $150,000 event.

Megan’s Interco, the 7-10 favorite for owner Milt Bronson and trainer Jenine Sahadi, won by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:35 under Corey Black. He now has 11 victories in 24 starts.

“It’s just so nice to have this horse and to have him back,” Sahadi said. “It was hard for me to train him because his feet were bad. I always felt bad, but he seems to run through anything. He’s my all-time favorite.”

Although the Classic escaped him, McCarron did win two other races--the Matron with Yearly Tour and the Juvenile with Cavonnier--to set an Oak Tree record for most stakes victories in a meeting. He now has 10, one more than Kent Desormeaux had in 1992.

Yearly Tour, second in four of her seven previous starts this year, broke through Saturday, beating 9-10 favorite Pirate’s Revenge by half a length in 1:42 4/5 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Cavonnier, who defeated 21-1 shot Ready To Order by nearly three lengths as the 3-2 favorite, gave trainer Bob Baffer his fifth Cal Cup victory.

Jockey Russell Baze, who is on his way to another 400-victory year, took the Sprint on favored Wild Gold. The biggest surprise of the day was provided by Wheatly Special, who won the Juvenile Fillies at nearly 23-1 under Alex Solis.


Lakeway, with Kent Desormeaux aboard for owner Mike Rutherford and Gary Jones, won the Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup by 4 1/2 lengths, covering the mile in 1:35 4/5 on a sloppy track.

Lakeway, the 4-5 favorite, paid $3.80.


Horse Racing Notes

The other two California Cup races were won by Hillwalker (the Distaff Starter Handicap) and Alki Joe, who led wire-to-wire in the 1 1/2-mile Starter Handicap at 11-1. . . . The on-track attendance was the largest of the meeting. . . . Best Pal’s second-place finish pushed his career earnings to $5,668,245, third behind Alysheba and John Henry.