TOM’S SURPRISE SEEKS TO UPSET SHIPPERS IN 14-HORSE SAN FRANCISCO MILE FIELD
Hard-knocking 5-year-old Tom’s Surprise has beaten second level allowance foes twice this year. Over time, Northern California racing fans have seen Tom’s Surprise show a lethal turn of speed in his races, passing rivals quickly while finishing his races full of energy.
Trainer Jack Steiner is looking forward to seeing how Tom’s Surprise handles the toughest task of his career when he faces 13 other runners in the marquee race on Gold Rush Weekend Saturday, April 30: the $250,000 Grade 3 San Francisco Mile. The one-mile turf route features a large number of Southern California invaders and some of the best routers in Northern California.
“We’re just really excited and honored to be in the race,” said Steiner. “Our horse is doing really well. We just hope he breaks well and works out a good trip. We’re running against a big field, so getting a good trip is going to be especially important. He’s coming into the race as good as he could be.”
Tom’s Surprise was claimed by Steiner and owners Remmah Racing Inc. for $20,000 in November. Since then, the son of turf router Tom’s Tribute has earned over $100,000 and won four races for his current connections.
“He’s been really good to us,” said Steiner. “We’re proud to be a part of a special horse like him.”
Another entrant in the ‘Mile that has been good to his connections is Camino Del Paraiso, a 4-time stakes winner at Golden Gate who was purchased for $1,000 as a youngster. Since then, he has earned $620,332 for trainer O.J. Jauregui and owners Paradise Road Ranch. The 9-year-old veteran comes off a poor effort at Turf Paradise in a stake race on March 11, but trainer Jauregui believes he has an excuse for Camino Del Paraiso’s poor showing.
“I don’t think he handled the turf course over there,” said Jauregui. “The turf track there is a lot different than the courses in California. He was sort of just spinning his wheels out there. He’s come back and worked well since the race. We’re giving it a go.”
Four Grade 3 winners are entered in the San Francisco Mile: Delaware (trained by Paddy Gallagher), Ecrivain (Richard Mandella), Freeport Joe (Gloria Haley) and Restrainedvengence (Val Brinkerhoff). Get Her Number, who won the 2020 American Pharoah Stakes as a 2-year-old, is the only Grade I winner in the field. He is trained by Ruben Alvarado, who also saddles California-bred stakes winner and Grade 2 placed router Indian Peak. Earlier in his career, Indian Peak was based at Golden Gate with trainer Quinn Howey.
Nolde, a Grade 2 winner, may have the most peculiar storyline out of any horse in the race. Conditioned by local trainer Steve Sherman, the son of Pioneerof the Nile has not been seen since an off-the-board finish in the 2019 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita. In the summer of that year, Nolde was victorious in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby. Nolde has posted several fast workouts leading up to his 2022 debut and will be guided by Northern California mainstay jockey Pedro Terrero.
Another interesting storyline is trainer Richard Baltas, who won last year’s San Francisco Mile with Whisper Not and the 2020 edition campaigning Neptune’s Storm. Seeking a three-peat, Baltas sends up Vanzzy, a Grade 3 placed 5-year-old who won the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park in 2020. Most recently, Vanzzy won a Santa Anita allowance race on March 25 with jockey Joe Bravo, who retains the mount in the ‘Mile.
Lastly, we turn our attention to Restrainedvengence, who ran third in the 2021 San Francisco Mile and completed the trifecta in the Grade I Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. He makes his second start off a layoff for trainer Val Brinkerhoff, having come up with a “clunker” three weeks ago in the John Shear Mile Stakes at Santa Anita.
A 12-race program kicks off on Saturday at 1:15 PM. The San Francisco Mile is the first leg of the Late Pick 4 sequence, which will have a guaranteed pool of $200,000.
Race 9: The $250,000 Grade 3 San Francisco Mile (for 3-year-olds and upward at one mile on turf)
1. Freeport Joe (Jockey Ruben Fuentes…Trainer Gloria Haley…morning line odds of 20-1)
2. Indian Peak (Irving Orozco…Ruben Alvarado…10-1)
3. Harmon (Julien Couton…Monty Meier…12-1)
4. Vanzzy (Joe Bravo…Richard Baltas…4-1)
5. Jimmy Blue Jeans (Assael Espinoza…Andy Mathis…15-1)
6. Evening Sun (Brice Blanc…Jeff Mullins..6-1)
7. Tiz Plus (Jose Valdivia Jr…Mike Puype…6-1)
8. Delaware (William Antongeorgi III…Paddy Gallagher…20-1)
9. Camino Del Paraiso (Catalino Martinez…O.J. Jauregui…15-1)
10. Nolde (Pedro Terrero…Steve Sherman…20-1)
11. Restrainedvengence (Edwin Maldonado…Val Brinkerhoff..5-1)
12. Tom’s Surprise (Armando Ayuso…Jack Steiner..12-1)
13. Get Her Number (Evin Roman…Ruben Alvarado…10-1)
14. Ecrivain (Jessica Pyfer…Richard Mandella…9-2)
TOP EXECUTIVE KICKS OFF 2022 IN LOST IN THE FOG STAKES
A Washington State champion as a 3-year-old last year, Kentucky-bred Top Executive begins his 4-year-old campaign with a tough task ahead of him. Entered to compete in the Lost in the Fog Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward at six furlongs on Tapeta this Saturday, Wright understands Top Executive will need to run his A+ race to have a shot at the gold medal.
“Going from three to four, it can be a big difference for these horses,” said Blaine. “Sometimes horses are really solid at three and don’t take the step forward against older horses. Other times, they really mature and do just fine.”
So the question becomes: does Wright feel Top Executive has what it takes to move forward?
“Well, he’s training really well,” answered Wright. “He seems like a more professional horse. He’s grown a little bit physically and I think he’s gotten stronger. I’m really happy with how he’s coming into the race on Saturday.”
Kevin Orozco, who has been working Top Executive in the mornings, agrees with Wright’s assessment.
“He’s more mature now,” said Orozco. “He’s been training really good.”
At Emerald Downs last year, Top Executive won a trio of stakes races-with Orozco aboard-at distances ranging from six furlongs to one-mile and a sixteenth.
Starting his 3-year-old season in April of 2021, Top Executive was victorious off a seven-and-a-half-month layoff while sprinting on the Tapeta at Golden Gate. That day, he defeated multiple stakes winner Top Harbor. With a similar pattern timing wise this year, Wright isn’t concerned with fitness.
“From that race [last year], we know he can run well fresh,” said Wright. “We didn’t get a prep race for him, so I had to train him up to this race. I’ve got three five furlong works and three six-furlong works into him, so he should be fit and ready.”
Among the nine entrants Top Executive will face Saturday is Lost in the Fog defending champion Anyportinastorm, who easily won the 2021 edition by two and a half lengths. In 2019, Anyportinastorm also took home the Lost in the Fog trophy, defeating an above average group as the favorite. The 8-year-old horse makes his first start since the August 15 Longacres Mile and will be ridden by Assael Espinoza. He also makes his first start for the Steve Miyadi barn.
Race 10: The $75,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes (for 3-year-olds & upward at six furlongs on Tapeta)
1. Ultimate Bango (Jockey Catalino Martinez…Trainer Sammy Calvario…morning line odds 6-1)
2. Anyportinastorm (Assael Espinoza…Steve Miyadi…7-2)
3. Murphys Tiger (Armando Ayuso…Tim McCanna…8-1)
4. Bettor Trip Nick (Evin Roman…Jonathan Wong…3-1)
5. Cool Mountain Lad (Pedro Terrero…Victor Trujillo…8-1)
6. Strongconstitution (William Antongeorgi III…Doug O’Neill..9-2)
7. Clem Labine (Irving Orozco…Isidro Tamayo…20-1)
8. Nero (Joe Bravo…Neil Drysdale…10-1)
9. Italiano (Ruben Fuentes…Isidro Tamayo…12-1)
10. Top Executive (Kevin Orozco…Blaine Wright…20-1)
GUARANTEED POOLS ON FRIDAY, SATURDAY, AND SUNDAY AS PART OF A STAKES PACKED WEEKEND AT GOLDEN GATE FIELDS
Guaranteed pools in the Late Pick 4 and Late Pick 5 bets will be in play this Friday, April 29 through Sunday May 1. The Late Pick 5 features the last five races on any given race day while the Late Pick 4 is comprised of the final four races on a race card.
On Friday afternoon, there will be a guaranteed Late Pick 5 pool of $50,000. The Late Pick 4 is guaranteed at $100,000. On Saturday and Sunday, The Late Pick 5 is guaranteed at $100,000, and the Late Pick 4 guarantee is set at $200,000.
The Late Pick 4 and Pick 5 sequences on Saturday are especially enticing. 47 horses-with 3 stakes including the 14-horse San Francisco Mile-are part of the Late Pick 4 sequence. The San Francisco Mile, Race 9, is the first leg of the Late Pick 4 on Saturday. 56 horses are entered in the Late Pick 5 sequence, beginning with Race 8: the California Oaks.
IL BELLATOR UP FOR THE TASK IN CALIFORNIA DERBY
Trainer Jose Bautista is quietly confident that 3-year-old colt Il Bellator will put up a solid effort in the $100,000 California on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields. The question, says Bautista, is what type of race shape will form in the early stages.
“My horse can be close [to the pace], but he likes to stalk and then pass horses,” said Bautista. “I just hope nobody gets loose on the lead.”
Nonetheless, Il Bellator is reportedly doing very well. Recently, the son of Shackleford worked six furlongs in an official time of 1:13 flat. The aforementioned time was given to Il Bellator by official Golden Gate clockers. Bautista timed Il Bellator a tad quicker.
“I got him in 1:12 and 4,” said Bautista. “He worked really good. He’s doing super right now. For a colt, he’s very laid back. I’ve really liked him since Day 1, and so far he’s done a lot right. He’s earned a shot in the ‘Derby.”
5-2 morning line shot Il Bellator was set to run against five other entrants. With that, Worse Read Sanchez, who was part of the California Derby field for trainer Doug O’Neill, was re-entered in the California-bred Silky Sullivan Stakes on Sunday.
Possibly a small field assembled, sure, but it is no easy race to win. The morning line favorite is Cabo Spirit, winner of the Eddie Logan Stakes on turf at Santa Anita in January. Most recently, the $575,000 2-year-old in training purchase finished in midfield against a tough group of East Coasters in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes at Turfway Park. In February, Cabo Spirit placed second in the Robert Lewis Stakes behind Kentucky Derby contender Messier.
2021 Gold Rush Stakes winner Boise makes his first start as a gelding and has drilled several quick workouts in the mornings. Il Capitano held off a late rally from Midnight Mammoth on the turf in an allowance optional claiming race and face each other once again in the California Derby. The former gelding was in for the $50,000 tag and subsequently claimed by trainer Steve Miyadi and owner Wong’s Stable.
Race 6: The $100,000 California Derby (for 3-year-olds at one mile and a sixteenth on Tapeta)
1. Il Capitano (Jockey Evin Roman…Trainer Steve Miyadi…morning line odds of 6-1)
2. Il Bellator (Alejandro Gomez…Jose Bautista…5-2)
3. Boise (Armando Ayuso…Jonathan Wong…6-1)
4. Cabo Spirit (Joe Bravo…George Papaprodromou…9-5)
5. Worse Read Sanchez (Pedro Terrero…Doug O’Neill…7-2)
6. Midnight Mammoth (Assael Espinoza…Steve Sherman…8-1)
WELL-RECEIVED ANTHONY’S CLEOPATRA FACES STAKES COMPANY FOR THE FIRST TIME
Always well regarded by her connections, 3-year-old filly Anthony’s Cleopatra makes her stakes debut in Race 8 on Saturday, the $75,000 California Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on Tapeta. Trained by Tim McCanna, Anthony’s Cleopatra has won two sprint races and finished as the runner up behind the talented Unraptured in her first career start routing about a month ago.
Anthony’s Cleopatra has a right to take a step forward, now with a route race under her belt. The Washington bred daughter of Constitution draws the outside post with regular rider Frank Alvarado. Anthony’s Cleopatra has been bet down to favoritism in all three lifetime starts and figures to get significant play again on Saturday. With that in mind, 5-2 morning line second choice Anthony’s Cleopatra has a stern class test ahead of her.
The 2-1 morning line favorite is My Kentucky Girl, who comes off a debut sprint victory at Santa Anita on April 2. The Jonathan Wong trainee has always trained at Golden Gate and will be making her route debut with jockey Evin Roman, who has been aboard My Kentucky Girl in many of her workouts. Wong also runs Distorted Queen, a recent third place finisher against allowance foes on turf.
Sparka was purchased after 10 races in Great Britain by owners Ron Charles and Sam Gordon and was immediately shipped to trainer Manny Badilla’s barn in Northern California. On April 8, she defeated a group of maiden special routers in a successful North American debut. Now she faces stakes company in her first try against winners.
Music Festival was a decisive allowance winner on February 20 and freshens up since that effort. The runner up finisher in the race, Vincero Grande, returned to romp in a first level allowance race herself. The Steve Sherman trainee has won two races in a row and sports a steady work pattern leading up to Saturday’s run.
One of three Southern California invaders entered is She’s Bulletproof. The daughter of Idiot Proof competes in a two-turn race for the first time for trainer Ruben Alvarado. An allowance winner in February at Santa Anita, She’s Bulletproof is a full sibling to stakes winner Bulletproof One and stakes placed In Our A. Both older siblings are strictly sprinters. Other Santa Anita shippers include maiden winners Exactly Wendy and She’s Got A Way.
Longshot Soo Brooklyn rounds out the field.
Race 8: The $75,000 California Oaks (for 3-year-old fillies at one mile and a sixteenth on Tapeta)
1. She’s Bulletproof (Jockey Irving Orozco…Trainer Ruben Alvarado…morning line odds 6-1)
2. Music Festival (William Antongeorgi III…Steve Sherman…10-1)
3. My Kentucky Girl (Evin Roman…Jonathan Wong…2-1)
4. Soo Brooklyn (Silvio Amador…Howie Rubin…50-1)
5. Distorted Queen (Jessica Pyfer…Jonathan Wong …12-1)
6. Sparka (Pedro Terrero…Manny Badilla…5-1)
7. Exactly Wendy (Armando Ayuso…Doug O’Neill …12-1)
8. She’s Got A Way (Edwin Maldonado…Peter Eurton…8-1)
9. Anthony’s Cleopatra (Frank Alvarado…Tim McCanna …5-2
AS EXPECTED, WONG HAS AN ARSENAL OF STAKES CONTENDERS ON GOLD RUSH WEEKEND
Leading Golden Gate trainer Jonathan Wong is coming to Gold Rush Weekend swinging. Earlier this week, Wong reported that he has a total of ten horses signed up for stakes actions on Saturday.
We start with the California Derby for 3-year-olds, where Wong campaigns the Temple City colt Boise. Since a midfield finish in the El Camino Real Derby last February, Boise has been gelded and is reportedly working better than ever in the mornings. In 2021, Boise won the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate and was fourth, beaten a half-length, in the Qatar Golden Mile on Breeders Cup Friday at Del Mar. Jockey Armando Ayuso is slated to ride Boise for the first time on Saturday.
“Boise is training really, really good,” said Wong. “I think being a gelding has helped him. He’s settled down and he’s not getting as rank early on. Mentally, he seems a lot more into it. I’m hoping that he breaks, Armando can loose rein him out of the gate, and he can sort of just place himself.”
Two 3-year-old fillies trained by Wong will race in the $75,000 California Oaks. Coincidentally, both sophomores are owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. The first of the duo, My Kentucky Girl, was a $475,000 yearling purchase by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. She kicked off her career with a maiden special weight victory over dirt at Santa Anita. She tries routing and stakes company in her second lifetime race.
“I thought her first race was super impressive,” said Wong. “We were just trying to get a race into her and see where she was at. She exceeded expectations. We knew she could run but figured she might need a race. We were actually going to run in a sprint stake at Santa Anita, but we heard [Grade I winner] Eda was going to run in the race and we didn’t feel running her against a Grade I winner so soon was ideal. She has always trained at Golden Gate and gotten over the track great. I think she’ll like routing.”
The second California Oaks contender, Distorted Queen, broke her maiden at Golden Gate while routing two turns and returned to run third on turf in an allowance race earlier this month.
“We’d love to get her some black type,” said Wong. “We put her in the maiden race at Golden Gate and told [jockey] Bryan [Pena], ‘Just go to the lead and see what happens’ and she won. I don’t think she wants to pass horses. When she gets behind, I don’t think she tries. Jessica Pyfer is riding her [on Saturday]. We’re going to make the lead at all costs.”
In the Golden Poppy Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile and a sixteenth on turf, Wong saddles a pair of entrants: Clockstrikestwelve and Sloane Garden. Clockstrikeswelve, a 3-time stakes placed mare, has been running against salty company at Santa Anita as of late. Last year at Golden Gate, she unofficially ran second-beaten a nose-to multiple stakes winner Avenue de France in the Luther Burbank Stakes. Coincidentally, Avenue de France is the 9-5 morning line favorite in this Saturday’s Golden Poppy. Although Clockstrikestwelve was eventually disqualified for interference in the stretch, she proved she can be competitive at a high level.
“She’s run against some good company recently. Bye Bye Bertie and Midnight Jamboree…those are pretty sharp horses,” said Wong, referring to mares Clockstrikestwelve has finished behind in recent starts. “She’s coming into this race better than she has in her last couple races. She’s more of a grinder that comes and picks up the pieces. Hopefully she can pick them all up and win. If not, hopefully we can pick up some more black type with her.”
Winner of the 2020 Golden Poppy, 6-year-old mare Sloane Garden exits a second level allowance race in which she scored a decisive two length victory. Frank Alvarado, who was aboard for the win, will be back in the saddle on Saturday.
“Frank has ridden her frequently and he’s been working her. He says she’s going great and he’s really happy with how she’s coming into the race,” said Wong. “[Frank] knows her better than we do, to be honest. I defer to him. I don’t think she’s one that wants to come from too far out of it but if the pace is slow, she is tactical enough to sit closer.”
In for a $62,500 claiming tag the last time she raced, Wong claimed Sloane Garden for an ownership group based in Kentucky. Sloane Garden, a 5-time winner and a 2-time stakes victor, has earned $163,947 throughout a 20-race career. Sloane Garden makes her swan song in the 2022 Golden Poppy.
“After this race, she is going to Australia to be bred over there,” said Wong. “She’s had a great career.”
Two of the best filly and mare sprinters on the grounds, Dynasty of Her Own and Sadie Bluegrass, are barn buddies set to face off in the Camilla Urso Stakes at 5 furlongs on turf. Sadie Bluegrass has been a picture of consistency for Team Wong. From 20 lifetime starts, she has won 11 races, with 3 seconds and 3 third place finishes. In her last start two months ago, she defeated stakes winner and subsequent second allowance winner Rebalation. Last year, Sadie Bluegrass ran in the Camilla Urso and finished third while suffering a traffic-filled journey.
“She had a brutal trip last year. She might’ve been best in that race,” said Wong. “She gives you everything she has every time. She’s as honest as they come. I wish I had a barn full of horses like her.”
Dynasty of Her Own, a multiple stakes winner, sports an unparalleled 10 wins from 11 starts on the Golden Gate Tapeta. That said, she is 0 for 4 on turf. Like stablemate Sadie Bluegrass, Dynasty of Her Own also competed in last year’s Camilla Urso and ran fifth with a less-than-ideal trip.
“Yeah, she didn’t get the greatest of trips last year either,” confirmed Wong. “She broke a little slow, got shuffled back, and came on running. She’s 100% better on Tapeta but has the class to fit with this field.”
Last time out, Dynasty of Her Own placed third in the Grade 3 Las Flores on dirt at Santa Anita, finishing behind top California filly and mare sprinter Edgeway.
Wong also has two also-eligibles in the field of 12: Day Plan and The Pharaoh’s Girl. They will need a scratch or two by 10 AM on Saturday to draw into the main body of the field.
Finally, Wong tightens the girth of 6-year-old gelding Bettor Trip Nick in the Lost in the Fog. Like barnmate Dynasty of Her Own, Bettor Trip Nick has shown an affinity for the Tapeta, having posted 7 wins from 10 starts over the surface so far. His last two starts have resulted in wire-to-wire victories against allowance and California-bred stakes company, respectively.
“With him, it’s pretty simple: take them as far as you can,” said Wong. “He wants the lead. If he makes the lead, he’s tough. He’s got a lot of speed and he’s got a lot of heart. This is a good spot for him. He usually runs well fresh, too.”
Wong is looking forward to Saturday. 15 horses of his are entered on the 12-race card.
“Like everyone else, we’re looking forward to Saturday,” said Wong. “We’re hoping to win some races and have a good time.”
Race 7: $75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes (for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at one mile and a sixteenth on turf)
- Buyback (Jockey Edwin Maldonado…Trainer Blaine Wright…morning line odds of 10-1)
- Northwest Factor (Pedro Terrero…Manny Badilla…6-1)
- Clockstrikestwelve (Evin Roman…Jonathan Wong…10-1)
- Avenue de France (Assael Espinoza…Leonard Powell…9-5)
- Misty Cat (Silvio Amador…Dan Franko…15-1)
- Sloane Garden (Frank Alvarado…Jonthan Wong…3-1)
- Miss Addie Pray (Irving Orozco…Paddy Gallagher…12-1)
- Bubbles On Ice (William Antongeorgi II….Michael McCarthy…9-2)
Race 11: The $75,000 Camilla Urso Stakes (for fillies and mares 3-year-olds & upward at five furlongs on turf)
1. Grinningeartoear (Jockey Pedro Terrero…Trainer Manny Badilla …morning line odds 20-1)
2. Lotsa Pepper (Assael Espinoza…Manny Badilla…15-1)
3. Fairy Tale Bliss (Ruben Fuentes…Sergio Ledezma…20-1)
4. Never For Money (Edwin Maldonado …Andy Mathis …6-1)
5. Tip Top Gal (Kevin Orozco…Quentin B. Miller…20-1)
6. Dynasty of Her Own (Evin Roman…Jonathan Wong..5-1)
7. Sadie Bluegrass (Armando Ayuso…Jonathan Wong …6-1)
8. Rebalation (Frank Alvarado…Tim McCanna …7-2)
9. Rakassah (Jessica Pyfer…Phil D’Amato…3-1)
10. Carolina Mia (Santos Rivera…Felix Ronda…6-1)
11. The Pharaoh’s Girl (William Antongeorgi II…Jonathan Wong…8-1)
12. Day Plan (Irving Orozco…Jonathan Wong…15-1)
FINISH LINES: Two California-bred stakes-the Silky Sullivan for California-bred or sired 3-year-olds and the Campanile for California-bred or sired 3-year-old fillies-are part of a 10-race program on Sunday. Both co-features are run at a mile on the grass. First post on Sunday is 12:45 PM…5 Southern California riders will be in town on Saturday for stakes engagements: Brice Blanc, “Jersey Joe” Bravo, Edwin Maldonado, Jessica Pyfer, and Jose Valdivia Jr…XBTV’s Zoe Cadman and Jeff Siegel will be on the Golden Gate Fields track video feed for the last three or four races on Friday and throughout the Saturday and Sunday festivities. Dave Weaver will be on site Friday through Sunday covering races for TVG while Rich Perloff will join him on Saturday and Sunday…The third race on Sunday is a fun allowance race featuring stakes winners American Farmer, Navy Armed Guard and Stalking Shadow…Stakes placed In Our A is the headliner in a first level allowance race on Friday that goes as the signature race of the day. $23,756 is carried over into the Golden Pick 6 jackpot wager heading into Friday. First post on Friday is 1:15 PM.