WELL-BRED HARCYN PREPS FOR CALIFORNIA DERBY IN FRIDAY ALLOWANCE
The Jerry Moss homebred Harcyn has been an exciting Northern California prospect since well before his first race. Prior to his career debut, he drilled a handful of speedy workouts that raised eyebrows of trainers and other workout watchers. A Kentucky-bred by Goldencents, Harcyn is out of the Street Cry dam Florian, who is a half sibling to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and 2007 Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago. With his raw ability and top-class pedigree, it sure looked like Harcyn could be any kind.
Harcyn debuted on October 30 in a five-and-a-half-furlong sprint, went to the lead while setting fast fractions, and hit the wire almost four lengths clear of runner up finisher Matt’s Monster. Matt’s Monster and third-place finisher Strut On Louie both returned to break their maidens in their next starts. Trainer Steve Sherman had to be patient and wait about 90 days for Harcyn’s first start against winners, a first level allowance for 3-year-old sprinters on January 16. He trounced his competition again, rolling to the front and hitting the wire well ahead of the rest.
With the two wins in toe, Harcyn had quickly broken through two conditions: his maiden status and first level allowance condition. With that, Sherman had no choice but to run Harcyn in the only race available for him at Golden Gate in February: the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at one mile and an eighth. It would be no easy task for Harcyn to win a race like this; he was facing more seasoned horses, most of who had route experience already, and he was set to travel 3 furlongs farther than he ever had in a race.
For the first time in his career, Harcyn sat second off a leader in the El Camino Real Derby. He moved to a steady gallop while relaxing kindly off the pace, pounced on the early pacesetter and took the lead in upper stretch, was on the lead for a brief time, and eventually finished third behind race winner Chase the Chaos and the Bob Baffert trained Gilmore. Although Harcyn suffered his first defeat, he only gained admirers for the effort.
“He was pretty tired after the [El Camino Real Derby], but he should have been,” said Sherman. “He ran hard. We made sure to give him a few days after the race to rest up and he bounced back well. He’s got a lot of energy now. He’s not a great work horse when he goes on his own, but when he works in company, he’s got his game face on. Really, you can do what you want with him.”
Since the El Camino Real Derby, Sherman has freshened up Harcyn. He returns this Friday in Race 7, an allowance for 3-year-olds at one mile. The race will be used as a prep run for the April 29, $100,000 California Derby for 3-year-olds at 8.5 furlongs on Gold Rush Weekend Saturday. William Antongeorgi III, who has been aboard Harcyn for all three lifetime starts, retains the mount on Friday.
“This is a tough race,” said Sherman. “There are some really nice horses in there. You’ve got a few different horses that all seem to have the same type of running style. They’ve all got speed but are pretty tactical. We’re going to have to play it by the break.”
A solid group of main contenders are ready to challenge Harcyn. Prince Abu Dhabi was a smashing first out winner in the fall, took some time off before his second lifetime start last month, flying home on El Camino Real Derby Day for a powerful victory against first level allowance sprinters. Prince Abu Dhabi, by Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, tries two turns for the first time and, among four workouts since his last race, sports a six-furlong drill for trainer Blaine Wright.
Trainer Steve Specht and owner/breeders Larry and Marianne Williams campaign a pair of entrants in Friday’s seventh race. Mother’s Prayer stalked the pace before landing the gold prize at the first level allowance condition last time out. He looks primed for another good effort again. Rousing Jewel, a filly facing boys, was a victor at a first level allowance condition on February 11 and, like Harcyn, makes her second lifetime start going a route of ground.
Happy Does, a multiple allowance winner for trainer Felix Rondan, was third home behind Mother’s Prayer in their last meeting on March 4 and faces a tougher group overall in this assignment. Smokin’ Hot is in for the optional $50,000 tag for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds and Jonathan Wong after a win and third place finish, respectively, against starter allowance foes.
First post on an 8-race card this Friday is 1:15 PM PT.
Race 7 on Friday (Allowance for 3-year-olds at one mile on the Tapeta)
#1 Mother’s Prayer (Jockey Assael Espinoza…Trainer Steve Specht…Morning line odds of 4-1)
#2 Prince Abu Dhabi (Kevin Radke…Blaine Wright…2-1)
#3 Harcyn (William Antongeorgi III…Steve Sherman…9-5)
#4 Rousing Jewel (Frank Alvarado…Steve Specht…6-1)
#5 Smokin’ Hot (Brayan Pena…Jonathan Wong…10-1)
#6 Happy Does (Santos Rivera…Felix Rondan…8-1)
TOP NORTHERN CALIFORNIA SPRINTERS STAR RACER VS. TOP HARBOR ON SATURDAY
Arguably the two best sprinters in Northern California square off for the first time in Race 3 on Saturday at Golden Gate. A sold effort by any of the five entrants in the race would likely result in a start in the $75,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes on Saturday, April 29.
The heavy hitters in the race, Star Racer and Top Harbor, boast two very different resumes. Star Racer has better than ever form in his last few starts and would be making his stakes debut in the Lost in the Fog if he were to compete in the race. Top Harbor has always been a stakes horse with consistent form since his first year of racing as a 2-year-old in 2020.
According to Star Racer’s trainer, Angelo Tekos Jr., the California-bred son of Vronsky has always shown talent. He began his career at Golden Gate with a solid maiden special weight win and was soon moved to Southern California when Tekos Jr. relocated there for a couple years. Although Star Racer won a state-bred allowance race at Del Mar in 2021, his form began to tail off in 2022, and Tekos eventually moved back to Golden Gate this past fall with his string of horses.
Clearly, Star Racer enjoys the GGF Tapeta. He sports a 4 for 7 record on the Tapeta, with 3 other in-the-money finishes. His last three races have been lights out; he walloped a pair of first level allowance fields and easily beat second level allowance foes in his most recent afternoon appearance on February 11. In all three races, he earned Beyer speed figures of 93, 96, and 97. Star Racer enters this Saturday’s third race with career best, stakes-caliber form, and a ton of confidence.
“The last few races here…between his races we were always working on something. Just little hiccups,” said Tekos Jr. “Before one race, he had a bruised foot. Luckily, that healed quick. Another time he got a little sick. We got him to the races, obviously, and he ran great, but we had to deal with those little hiccups and back off him a little [during his training.] This is the first time in his last few starts that he hasn’t had a hiccup. He’s doing really, really well.
The reason ‘Racer is in top form at age 6 is because he has good owners that let me give him time off when he needed it,” concluded Tekos Jr.
Top Harbor, on the other hand, has always been a stakes horse. In only his second lifetime start as a 2-year-old in 2020, he won the Everett Nevin Stakes at Pleasanton. He was victorious in the 2021 El Dorado Shooter Stakes at Golden Gate, beating older horses as a 3-year-old that day, while his most recent stakes victory came just about four months ago in the Oakland Stakes on November 19. Top Harbor was last seen running second behind Southern California shipper See Through It in the 2023 El Dorado Shooter in February. He was coming off about a four-month layoff that day.
“I’m glad we’re getting a prep into him [before the Lost in the Fog Stakes],” said McCanna. “[Racing Secretary] Steve Martinelli did a good job getting this race to go. [Top Harbor] is a big, heavy horse, so I have to overtrain him a little bit to keep him fit.”
The other three runners set to tackle the top pair are no slouches. Psycho Dar draws the rail and looks to rebound after a fourth-place finish in the El Dorado Shooter Stakes. Last year, the Sammy Calvario trainee beat Top Harbor in the Harris Farm Stakes at Fresno, but was out finished in the Oakland Stakes, finishing a length behind Top Harbor.
Unraptured, the second runner in the race campaigned by McCanna, makes his second start off a six-month layoff after receiving the silver medal in a second level allowance race.
“We’ll see how he fits with this field and if he hangs with ‘em, then we’ll nominate to a stake,” said McCanna.
Cool Mountain Lad won the Oak Tree Sprint Stakes at Pleasanton and returned to Golden Gate over the summer to beat Unraptured in a second level allowance. He has lost three races in a row since then and, like Unraptured, makes the second start in his current form cycle.
Race fans will get to enjoy 9 races on Saturday. First post is 1:15 PM.
Race 3 on Saturday (Allowance for 4-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the Tapeta)
#1 Psycho Dar (Jockey Irving Orozco…Trainer Sammy Calvario…Morning line odds of 5-2)
#2 Star Racer (Assael Espinoza…Angelo Tekos Jr…7-5)
#3 Unraptured (Armando Ayuso…Tim McCanna…6-1)
#4 Top Harbor (Frank Alvarado…Tim McCanna…5-2)
#5 Cool Mountain Lad (Brayan Pena…Victor Trujillo…8-1)
CONTENTION RUNS DEEP IN SUNDAY FEATURE FOR SPRINTERS
Race 8 on Sunday, a second level allowance for 4-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs, features a mix of past stakes performers, horses returning from layoffs, and recently claimed horses. Many are eligible to win the race if they show up with their top effort.
2021 Oakland Stakes winner Rager leads the list of major players. Earlier this year, he earned an 89 Beyer speed figure with a decisive win at this condition. He returned less than a month later to finish as the runner up behind Star Racer. For the second-place finish, he received a 90 Beyer. Rager regressed in his most recent start and was third home in a March 11 allowance. He looks to rebound and will likely get plenty of support in the wagering.
Irrefutable ended his 2022 with a three-quarter length loss to Top Harbor in the Oakland Stakes. He returned in 2023 and has finished behind Rager twice, including in his most recent afternoon appearance on February 10. The Mike Lenzini trainee has only finished off the board three times from 16 starts over the Golden Gate Tapeta.
Torpedo Away was no match for his competition in the Oakland Stakes last year and has since competed in three consecutive high level claiming races. Each time, he finished ahead or right behind the likes of first level allowance caliber racers Honeymoonz Over and Murphy’s Tiger. The hard knocking Washington bred earned a career high Beyer (88) in his last start in which he lost by a head to the latter rival mentioned above.
Another who was last seen earning a career best speed figure is Larry’s Legend, who was making his first start for the Sammy Calvario barn last time out and only finished a neck behind multiple allowance winner Love’em N Leave’em. That day, he had to navigate through traffic and, to some handicappers, might have been considered an unlucky loser. He looks to build off that run in his second start for his current connections.
Executive Chef is the second Blaine Wright entrant in the race and makes his 4-year-old debut in this spot. He was a runaway winner of the Auburn Stakes at Emerald Downs on dirt last summer-a race restricted to 3-year-olds. We know he can run effectively on the Tapeta because he broke his maiden over the surface last year.
Others in the race include Lmlooknformischief, who picked up a confidence booster when defeating first level allowance foes last month and takes a step up in class. Hey Mate hasn’t been seen since June and, the last time he sprinted at this level, finished three-quarters of a length behind stakes placed In Our A. Having won three consecutive turf sprints at Santa Anita, My Summer Dream was claimed for $50,000 by trainer O.J Jauregui and owner Danny Eplin on January 13 and, the last time he ran at Golden Gate, finished off the board behind Star Racer, Rager, and Irrefutable on February 10. Rounding out the field is Dr Pescado, who won the Golden Nugget Stakes as a 2-year-old but has failed to win in five starts since. He draws the rail for his 2023 debut.
9 races conclude the racing week at Golden Gate. First post is 1:15 PM.
Race 8 on Sunday (Second level allowance for 4-year-olds at up at six furlongs)
#1 Dr Pescado (Jockey Cristobal Herrera…Trainer Felix Rondan)
#2 Executive Chef (William Antongeorgi III…Blaine Wright)
#3 Rager (Assael Espinoza…Tim McCanna)
#4 Lmlooknformischief (Irving Orozco…Faith Taylor)
#5 Torpedo Away (Alexander Chavez…Blaine Wright)
#6 Hey Mate (Evin Roman…Bill McLean)
#7 Irrefutable (Kevin Radke…Mike Lenzini)
#8 Larry’s Legend (Santos Rivera…Sammy Calvario)
#9 My Summer Dream (Armando Ayuso…O.J. Jauregui)
Below is a list of claims from last week.
Race 2: Dick Best (New trainer Simon Hobson…New owner Amy Hobson)
Race 3: Unwhirled (Manny Badilla…Jerry Jamgotchian)
Race 4: Spun Beautiful (Isidro Tamayo…Frankly Speaking LLC)
Race 5: Hardly Mischievous (Jonathan Wong…MJVET Stables and Clay Sides)
Race 7: Vintage (Manny Badilla…Jerry Jamgotchian)
Race 8: Charbonneau (Andy Mathis…William Branch, Robert Jones and Mathis)
Race 2: My Man Stan (Miguel Ramirez…Mark Freeman)
Race 2: Wild Billy D (Sammy Calvario…Bits N Bubbles Racing)
Race 3: Gordy’s Boy (Owner/Trainer Guillermo Preciado)
Race 6: Dress Rehearsal (Sammy Calvario…Johnny Taboada)
Race 1: Gentleman’s Secret (Jonathan Wong…Madden Racing)
Race 3: Harbor Sky (Isidro Tamayo…John Tipton)
Race 7: Muay Thai (Owner/Trainer Victor Trujillo)
Race 7: Sierra Melody (Blaine Wright…Blaine D. Wright Racing Stables LLC)
FINISH LINES: Wild Billy D, a 3-year-old grey/roan gelding by Danzing Candy, broke his maiden in Saturday’s fifth race for owners Ray Pagano, Brian Delia and trainer Jonathan Wong. The California-bred was named after longtime Bay Area trainer Bill Delia, who passed away last year. Just like his namesake, Wild Billy D is a winner…A $112,000 carryover in the Pick Six on Mandatory Payout Sunday attracted a new money pool of $671,772. The sharp handicappers who hit 6 of 6 found themselves with a juicy payoff: $14,537.26. The Golden Pick Six jackpot pool begins anew this Friday…Along with the featured third race on Saturday, there are two additional allowance races. Race 7 is a first level allowance for filly and mare routers while Race 8 is a first level allowance for sprinters…Race 3 on Sunday is a prep for the $75,000 Camilla Urso Stakes on April 29 for filly and mare sprinters. Entered in Sunday’s third: Always Seeking, looking for her fifth win a row, 3-time stakes winner Slack Tide, 2022 California Oaks winner Anthony’s Cleopatra, multiple stakes placed router Buyback and stakes placed sprinter Carolina Mia…Santa Anita Handicap winner Stilleto Boy remains on course for the $1,000,000 Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 22. Last Sunday morning, the son of Shackleford clicked off four furlongs in an easy 50.40 seconds at Golden Gate for trainer Ed Moger Jr…Also from the Moger Jr. barn, El Camino Real Derby winner Chase the Chaos worked a half mile on Saturday in 51 seconds. It was his first morning drill since a seventh-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Chase the Chaos is listed as “possible” for the $100,000 California Derby on Gold Rush Weekend Saturday…Heading into the final day of racing in March, Assael Espinoza has the most wins out of any jockey at the current meeting with 49 trips to the winner’s circle. Armando Ayuso has 37 wins in second place while William Antongeorgi III rounds out the top 3 with 34…Trainer Jonathan Wong has a 39-26 lead over Isidro Tamayo in the trainer standings. Jack Steiner is 8 behind Tamayo with 18 victories.