TOP LOCAL 3-YEAR-OLDS HAVE BREEDING TO SUGGEST TURF WILL BE NO PROBLEM FOR SUNDAY’S ALCATRAZ STAKES
Some of the top 3-year-olds in Sunday’s $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes are names that racing fans who closely follow Golden Gate will know. Undefeated Prince Abu Dhabi, well-bred Harcyn, and multiple stakes winner Passarando are three who come to mind in a group that has produced a strong crop of sophomores in the Northern California region. The trio of racers, all who exit the California Derby last month, will be racing over a new surface, turf, in Sunday’s feature race of the day, the Alcatraz at one mile. The 2023 Alcatraz drew a field of seven and goes as the eighth race on a nine-race card. First post is 1:45 PM.
The one to beat in the race is Prince Abu Dhabi, undefeated with four consecutive wins and looking to become a two-time stakes winner after a half-length victory in the California Derby on April 29. The Blaine Wright trainee certainly possesses the pedigree to enjoy turf. Prince Abu Dhabi’s dam, the Irish-bred American Girl, won three times on grass during her racing career in 2014 and 2015. Damsire High Chaparral dead heated for the win in the 2003 Breeders Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
“He got a chance to gallop over the outside part of the turf course last Wednesday morning,” said Wright. “It’s always good when you can get your horses over a track they haven’t been on before. He’s bred to like the grass. You never truly know how a horse will do over a surface in a race until they actually race over it, but I was very pleased with how he galloped on the turf the other morning.”
Prince Abu Dhabi, to be ridden by regular jockey Alexander Chavez again, has worked twice since the California Derby triumph. An $8,000 sale purchase by multiple Grade 1 winner Palace Malice, Prince Abu Dhabi hasn’t done anything wrong since joining the Wright stable as a 2-year-old for owners Lance and Steve Kinross.
“The horse always comes first,” said Wright. “We’ve got a pretty good 3-year-old program here at Golden Gate, so for the time being we’re staying home. If he were to ship and run poorly on a new surface, then you start trying to answer if he didn’t like the ship, if the company was too tough, if he didn’t like the turf. Right now, we’ll see how he runs on the turf while not necessarily facing easier company than he did in the California Derby. This race will help us map out our summer campaign.”
California Derby fourth place finisher Harcyn sat on the bumper of a quick pace in the ‘Derby and was unable keep up with the top three. He finished three lengths behind Prince Abu Dhabi. Trained by Steve Sherman, Harcyn is out of the Street Cry mare Florian, a half sibling to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and 2007 Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago. Their dam, named Set Them Free, won a turf sprint stake at Hollywood Park in 1994. Earlier in the year, Harcyn ran third in the El Camino Real Derby for owner/breeder Jerry Moss.
California-bred Passarando finished a head and a nose, respectively, behind Harcyn in the El Camino Real Derby and California Derby. As a 2-year-old, he won the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate on Tapeta and the Golden State Juvenile sprinting seven furlongs on dirt at Santa Anita. His second dam, the Decarchy mare Antares World, was a multiple stakes winner on the turf and placed second in the 2010 Grade 1 American Oaks on grass at Hollywood Park. The Steve Specht trainee makes his second start off a two-and-a-half-month layoff in the Alcatraz.
Southern California shipper Phosphorescence is back for another crack at Northern California company after a runner up finish to Prince Abu Dhabi in the California Derby. Unlike the three locals mentioned, Phosphorescence is based at Santa Anita under the care of Michael McCarthy. He is proven to like turf, too, as the $200,000 Keeneland weanling purchase by City of Light broke his maiden going two turns on grass in March.
The second Southern California shooter in the Alcatraz is Game Time, entering for trainer John Sadler off a length and a quarter loss in the Singletary Stakes at Santa Anita. That day, he stalked the pace inside of horses and got caught behind traffic throughout the length of the stretch. A maiden winner on turf at Santa Anita last October, Game Time placed second in the Grade 3 Cecille B. Demille at Del Mar as a 2-year-old and was the runner up in the Pasadena Stakes behind Johannes, arguably the top 3-year-old turf horse in Southern California.
Others entered in the Alcatraz are starter allowance winner Cousin Richie, third place finisher in the Silky Sullivan for state-breds on turf, and Welton, a first out maiden special weight winner who returned two months later in his most recent start to finish third in a first level allowance race sprinting. Sergio Ledezma trains Cousin Richie while leading conditioner Jonathan Wong campaigns Welton. Welton’s dam, the Lemon Drop Kid mare Iadorakid, raced once in her short career and won at the one-mile distance on turf. A 2-year-old unnamed sibling to Welton was purchased for $750,000 at the OBS April 2-year-old in training sale and currently resides at Los Alamitos with trainer Bob Baffert.
Race 8 on Sunday (The $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf)
#1 Game Time (Jockey Armando Ayuso…Trainer John Sadler)
#2 Cousin Richie (Alejandro Gomez…Sergio Ledezma)
#3 Welton (Brayan Pena…Jonathan Wong)
#4 Prince Abu Dhabi (Alexander Chavez…Blaine Wright)
#5 Passarando (Frank Alvarado…Steve Specht)
#6 Phosphorescence (Assael Espinoza…Michael McCarthy)
#7 Harcyn (Evin Roman…Steve Sherman)
RIO KING LOOKS TO DUPLICATE CAREER BEST RACE IN THIS MONDAY’S ALL AMERICAN STAKES
A good-sized field is projected to compete in the $100,000 All American Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward at one mile on the Tapeta this Monday. The All American is the annual feature race on Memorial Day Monday, May 29, a day every year in which Golden Gate Fields runs a special holiday program. Entries for the All American and the rest of the Monday card will be taken, drawn, and published on Friday.
Among the strong list of local entrants pointing to the All American is Rio King, second-place finisher in last month’s Grade 3 $250,000 San Francisco Mile. Rio King, exiting three consecutive wins including a first level allowance triumph in March, went off at 51-1 in the San Francisco Mile, sat off a quick pace, rallied down the lane and finished a nose short of race winner Balnikhov. The aforementioned foe runs in Monday’s Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.
“I was very happy, of course, but I was not surprised he ran well,” said Rio King’s trainer, Sammy Calvario. “I really liked him going into that race. He was a longshot, but he stood out in his training. In his gallops, he was aggressive and wanted to be ahead of all the other horses he was training with. After he won the allowance race, I told the owner ‘Let’s go in the San Francisco Mile.’ Someone asked me before Gold Rush Weekend, ‘What stakes horse do you like this weekend?’ and I told her that I liked Rio King. Every race he’s won with us, he’s gotten stronger and more confident.”
Rio King, claimed by owners Huntertown Farm LLC for $20,000 as a maiden in October, has won four of eight starts for the Calvario barn off the claim with earnings just over $100,000 for the current connections.
“The owner wanted to claim a horse in October. I looked in the racing form and saw Rio King had come from Kentucky and ran a good race over there. He didn’t run well at Del Mar [and was shipping in to race at Golden Gate], so I told the owner, ‘It’s tough at Del Mar. He might be good at Golden Gate.’ So, we claimed him.”
Since the San Francisco Mile, the son of Bali a Bali has one published morning workout. Rio King is a multiple winner on the Tapeta main track, meaning the surface switch in the All American shouldn’t be an issue.
“He’s training as well as he was before the ‘Mile,” said Calvario. “He is doing good. He is ready.”
The projected field assembled for the 2023 All American isn’t any lighter than the San Francisco Mile. The Richard Mandella trainee Royal Ship is a three-time Grade 2 winner and is reportedly “probable” to sign up for the All American at Golden Gate on entry day Friday. Another possible All American entrant is 2021 Grade I Pacific Classic winner Tripoli, who lost his best form in 2022 but got a confidence booster with a determined allowance win on the Tapeta two months ago, defeating Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap winner Lammas in the process. He has been training at Santa Anita under the care of John Sadler since then.
Other likely contenders in the All American include McCann’s Mojave Stakes winner American Farmer, a synthetic specialist from the Steve Sherman barn who hasn’t raced since the aforementioned victory on March 18. Tesoro failed to fire in the San Francisco Mile, his first start of 2023, and makes his second start off a layoff. Gutsy gelding I’mgonnabesomebody won the Sam Spear Memorial on turf last year and was second in the Grade 3 Berkeley over the fall. He returns to the races in the All American after a four-and-a-half-month vacation for trainer Bill McLean. 2022 Silky Sullivan Stakes winner Royal n’ Rando is another who enters off a similar layoff as I’mgonnabesomebody. Trained by Steve Specht, Royal n’ Rando’s last winners circle appearance came after a second level allowance victory in December. Rounding out the list of local probables is recent second level allowance winner Kennebec.
One nominee missing from the All American probables list is San Francisco Mile third place finisher Il Bellator. Il Bellator is possible to compete at Santa Anita instead in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on Monday. Local trainer Jose Bautista trains Il Bellator for owners Edward and Theresa DeNike.
Entries for Monday’s Memorial Day Monday card will be taken, drawn, and published on Friday.
ANYBODY’S RACE IN FRIDAY ALLOWANCE
On paper, handicappers can make a legitimate case for every horse in Friday’s signature race of the day: a first level allowance for 3-years-olds at one mile on the Tapeta. A field of seven are entered in the feature event of the day, which goes as the sixth of eight races. First post is 1:15 PM.
Morning line favorite Nauvoo gets class relief for leading trainer Jonathan Wong after a four-length loss in the California Derby. The son of Not This Time possesses the speed to go to the lead if he wants it. The last win for Nauvoo came in a $16,000 claiming race on dirt at Santa Anita, where he set the pace, won the contest by a whopping nine lengths, and earned a 80 Beyer speed figure. Brayan Pena was aboard in the California Derby and retains the mount on Friday.
Mother’s Prayer ran two bang-up races in March: a victory on the fourth of the month at this first level allowance condition, and a nose loss at the hands of California Derby winner Prince Abu Dhabi in a separate allowance event on March 31. The Steve Specht trainee seeks to rebound after a poor effort in his most recent start, the Silky Sullivan Stakes, for state-breds on the turf, and picks up the services of leading rider Assael Espinoza for Friday’s engagement.
The Kentucky bred Sea Dog was a length and a quarter behind Mother’s Prayer in the March 4 allowance heat and freshened up over a month and a half for his next start in the California Derby, where he finished a nose ahead of Nauvoo for sixth place in the field of nine. The son of Midshipman is trained by O.J Jauregui will be ridden by Alexander Chavez for the first time. Purchased for $90,00 as a 2-year-old in training, Sea Dog is in for the optional $50,000 claiming tag.
Happy Does, third in the March 4 allowance race, has already won twice at the first level allowance condition. In his most recent afternoon appearance, the Felix Rondan trainee sat off the speed and rallied down the lane to complete the superfecta in the Silky Sullivan Stakes, finishing just two lengths behind race winner Hacking It Up. The most experienced entrant in the field, Happy Does is less than $5,000 short of the six-figure lifetime earnings mark.
Rodrigoknows finished a length behind Happy Does for fourth in the Silky Sullivan and makes his second lifetime start at a route of ground for trainer Victor Trujillo. The son of Cat Burglar broke his maiden sprinting and has already hit the board once at the first level condition sprinting. Just like Happy Does, Rodrigoknows returns to the Tapeta against allowance company on Friday.
Recent maiden special weight turf winner Duplication is another who routes for the second time. He ran a career best race going a two-turn distance last month and looks to build off that. Completing the field is Trinidad, tenth in the Silky Sullivan Stakes on Gold Rush Weekend Sunday. Jack Steiner conditions Duplication and Roger Hansen trains Trinidad.
Race 6 on Friday (First level allowance at one mile on the Tapeta)
#1 Mother’s Prayer (Jockey Assael Espinoza…Trainer Steve Specht…Morning line odds of 3-1)
#2 Nauvoo (Brayan Pena….Jonathan Wong…2-1)
#3 Duplication (Armando Ayuso…Jack Steiner…8-1)
#4 Trinidad (Hugo Herrera…Roger Hansen…12-1)
#5 Happy Does (Santos Rivera…Felix Rondan…6-1)
#6 Sea Dog (Alexander Chavez…O.J. Jauregui…4-1)
#7 Rodrigoknows (Evin Roman…Victor Trujillo…6-1)
Race 3: Don’t Tell Hydee (New trainer Isidro Tamayo…new owner Hat Trick Racing)
Race 4: Alexander’s Dream (Reid France…RKJ Stable)
Race 7: Attenzione (Jonathan Wong…Madden Racing LLC, MJVET Stables and Sergio Salguero)
Race 1: All (Ruby Thomas…William Heck)
Race 1: Jaycee (Jesus Uranga…Battle Born Racing Stable)
Race 3: Harbor Sky (Jonathan Wong…MJVET Stables)
FINISH LINES: El Camino Real Derby winner Chase the Chaos placed fifth in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes last Saturday at Pimlico and picked up a $49,500 check for the effort. No immediate plans are on the docket for the Pennsylvania bred son of Astern…Race 8 on Saturday is the feature race of the day: a field of 9 are entered to travel one mile and a sixteenth on the turf. The final race on Saturday, Race 9, is a maiden sprint for 3-year-olds. Both high quality races are two halves of the Golden Hour Late Pick 4 sequence…With 10 racing days left to go at the 2023 Winter/Spring meet, Assael Espinoza sits atop the jockey standings with 78 wins. Armando Ayuso is second with 62 wins and Evin Roman rounds out the top three with 58 trips to the winner’s circle…In the trainer standings, Jonathan Wong leads the way with 49 wins, five ahead of Isidro Tamayo…Trainer Blaine Wright is 10 wins away from 1,000 career victories. He has 11 horses entered at Emerald Downs between Saturday and Sunday and saddles 4 horses at Golden Gate throughout Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.