Grand Slam Smile Stretches Out and Tries Turf in $200K Leigh Ann Howard California Cup Oaks

January 10, 2024

Grand Slam Smile romps in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Race Is Part of the Lucrative CTBA-Sponsored Golden State Series

Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.— Among California’s most successful breeders for many years, Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams are very well represented indeed in Saturday’s $200,000 Leigh Ann Howard California Cup Oaks, as their homebred Grand Slam Smile stretches out and looms a solid favorite among eight rival sophomore fillies at one mile on turf.

The Cal Cup Oaks is part of the lucrative CTBA-sponsored Golden State Series for registered California-bred or sired horses.

Unbeaten in two starts on the Santa Anita main track, Grand Slam Smile, who is trained by Steve Specht, had her biggest career moment here two starts back on Nov. 3, as she dominated nine rivals in taking the seven furlong Golden State Juvenile Fillies by 7 ¼ lengths while earning a solid 70 Beyer Speed Figure.

Subsequently trailered back to her Golden Gate Fields base, she was a disappointing second as the 2-5 favorite in the six furlong Golden Gate Debutante on Nov. 25.

Freshened since, Grand Slam Smile will not only be trying two turns for the first time on Saturday, but will also be running for the first time on turf as well. By Smiling Tiger out of the Grand Slam mare Royal Grand Slam, Grand Slam Smile should be forwardly placed under regular rider Frank Alvarado. With three wins and two second from five starts, she has earnings of $219,900.

Owned by CYBT, Rafter JR Ranch, LLC, STD Racing Stable and Michael Nentwig and trained by Peter Miller, Madison Rae comes off a solid win versus statebreds in the one mile Soviet Problem Stakes Dec. 10 at Los Alamitos, a race she took by a half length in gate to wire fashion when ridden for the first time by Edwin Maldonado, who is not available Saturday due to a recent shoulder injury.

A six furlong maiden winner three starts back here on Oct. 8, Madison Rae appears to be on the improve for Miller and will likely be on the lead when trying turf for the first time on Saturday with Joel Rosario at the controls.

Peter Eurton’s Prancingthruparis, who will also be stretching out and trying turf for the first time, comes off a close second in a six furlong allowance versus statebreds here on Jan. 1 and will be ridden for the fifth straight time by Antonio Fresu.

A filly by Sir Prancealot owned and bred by Ciaglia Racing, LLC, SAF Racing and Harry Crusberg, Prancingthruparis has a win and two seconds from four starts with earnings of $96,850.

Sushi Sticks after her debut victory Aug. 25, 2023, at Del Mar (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

With Flavien Prat engaged and plenty of two-turn experience, Repole Stable’s Sushi Sticks, who comes off a close third place finish versus open company in the one mile Gold Rush Stakes on synthetic Tapeta at Golden Gate Dec. 2, rates a huge chance in what will be her fourth career start.

Trained by Michael McCarthy, Sushi Sticks is by Karakontie out of the Tapit mare Renewed Energy. A gutty neck maiden winner from off the pace in her one mile turf debut Aug. 25, she was subsequently a troubled ninth at a mile on grass in the Grade III Surfer Girl here Oct. 8.


Race 5 of 9 Approximate post time 2:30 p.m. PT

  1. Petit Filet – Kazushi Kimura – 124
  2. Prancingthruparis – Antonio Fresu – 124
  3. R Sweet Candy – Aburto Jimenez – 124
  4. Asada Fries – Juan Hernandez – 124
  5. Sushi Sticks – Flavien Prat – 124
  6. Recalcitrant – Lanfranco Dettori – 124
  7. Madison Rae – Joel Rosario – 124
  8. Putt for Dough – Mario Gutierrez – 124
  9. Grand Slam Smile – Frank Alvarado – 124

First post time for a nine-race card on Cal Cup Day, Saturday, is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.

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