Golden Gate Fields News and Notes: Thursday, September 8, 2022


In the last five years or so, trainer Michael McCarthy has had much success with sending horses from his Southern California string to Golden Gate and winning right off the van. This Friday and Saturday, McCarthy will race a trio of horses at the bayside track, all seemingly in with solid chances to win their respective races.

In the sixth race on Friday, McCarthy sends out Optimising, an Irish bred entered in an allowance for 3-year-olds at one mile and a sixteenth on turf. Optimising broke his maiden overseas in a one-turn sprint last year and was subsequently purchased out of the race by owners Red Barons Barn LLC. He was shipped to McCarthy’s barn in California where he then raced three times against stakes company, never finishing more than 2 lengths behind the winner in each start. Following a troubled trip in the Grade 3 Cecille B. DeMille Mile on November 28, Optimising was sent to a farm for a vacation.

Optimising made his 2022 debut on August 13, racing against first level allowance foes going long on turf at Del Mar. That day, he was far behind early, lacked room at the quarter pole, and finished about four lengths behind the winner. He makes his second start off a layoff in Friday’s sixth race at Golden Gate.

“We don’t see too many straight 3-year-old allowance races pop up later in the year,” said McCarthy. “I thought he ran well in his first start this year. He’ll be sitting back and making a run down the lane.”

On Saturday, McCarthy campaigns Isola Mia in Race 6, a first level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at one mile and a sixteenth on turf, and Red Tiara, a 3-year-old in against other filly and mare maidens going one mile on the main-track Tapeta. Both runners are owned by Don Alberto Stable.

Isola Mia broke her maiden for a $100,000 claiming tag at Santa Anita in May. Since then, she has finished off the board in a pair of allowance races at Del Mar. Red Tiara failed to be competitive in a pair of maiden special weight races this spring and summer against tough Southern California competition. She runs on the Tapeta for the first time.

“Isola Mia should get a good trip fairly close to the pace,” said McCarthy. “I think this is a good spot for her to run a competitive race. Red Tiara is a grinder, and I think the Tapeta will suit her well.”

Southern California jockey Diego Herrera flies up to ride Isola Mia and Red Tiara on Saturday. Local pilot Assael Espinoza has Friday’s call aboard Optimising.

“Diego has worked a bunch of horses for me and we’ve had a few wins together in the afternoon,” said McCarthy. “He’s a good kid and a good horseman. He works hard and gives us good feedback when he gets off our horses.”

A fourth horse of McCarthy’s, Irish-bred gelding Percolate, entered on Thursday afternoon to run in Race 8 at Golden Gate on Sunday, a maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the Tapeta. In two starts this year against Southern California foes, Percolate failed to finish in the top three spots. Diego Herrera is booked to ride.

Live racing runs on a Friday through Sunday basis this week. First post each day is 1:45 PM PT.

Race 6 on Friday (First level allowance at one mile and a sixteenth on turf for 3-year-olds)

#1 Optimising (Jockey Assael Espinoza…trainer Michael McCarthy…morning line odds of 7-5)

#2 Canelito (Cristobal Herrera…Jonathan Wong …6-1)

#3 Tofino Bay (Pedro Terrero…Neil Drysdale …8-1)

#4 Nuestro Engreido (Santos Rivera…Felix Rondan…10-1)

#5 Saint Ives (Catalino Martinez…Jose Bautista…6-1)

#6 Stan the Hot Man (Francisco Monroy…Jonathan Wong…8-1)

#7 Crazy Dreams (Evin Roman…Isidro Tamayo…7-2)

Race 7 on Friday (First level allowance at one mile and a sixteenth on turf for 3-year-old fillies)

#1 Distorted Queen (Jockey Assael Espinoza…trainer Jonathan Wong…morning line odds of 8-1)

#2 Vincero Grande (Frank Alvarado…Andy Mathis…2-1)

#3 Harbor’s Rose (Irving Orozco…Victor Trujillo…6-1)

#4 Darnquick (Silvio Amador…Ed Moger Jr…8-1)

#5 Sacred Beauty (Pedro Terrero…Victor Trujillo…5-1)

#6 Isola Mia (Diego Herrera…Michael McCarthy…4-1)

#7 Sky Maker (Evin Roman…Steve Sherman…9-2) 


Beginning this summer meeting, Director of Racing Steve Martinelli stepped aside from morning line odds making and relinquished the roll to Jacob Shepard, one-half of the Equibase chart

calling tag team at Golden Gate. Shepard, who grew up in Indiana, first went to the track with his family at a young age, attending the races at Keeneland Racecourse and Churchill Downs in Kentucky. From there, he quickly fell in love with the sport of kings.

Shepard went to college at the University of Kentucky and graduated with a degree in agricultural economics. Out of college, he was hired to work in customer service for Brisnet (operated by Twinspires) and was employed there for multiple years. But eventually, Shepard moved to California and opted to take a break from racing.

“My wife got a job in California, so we moved out here,” said Shepard. “I was a little burnt out from racing and needed a break. I still would bring my friends to Golden Gate and explain how racing went, but I was not interested in making horse racing a career at that point. Then, 4 or 5 years went by and I was like, ‘Man, I really, really miss racing.’”

From there, Shepard was determined to get back in the game. Shepard cashed in stocks he earned from working at a startup lighting company and used some of the money to pay for his education at the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry program. After completing the program, he was hired as an Equibase chart caller at Golden Gate along with the second half-of the current team, Jerry Stone.

“During my time at U of A, the students at the racetrack program had various jobs at Rillito Park [in Arizona],” said Shepard. “I did a million things down there. One of the jobs I had was calling charts, and I really enjoyed it. A good friend of mine had done it a year before [at Rillito] and had gone on to call charts at Parx, Gulfstream and Churchill Downs. So, I saw an avenue to make that a job if I wanted to do that.

I really like the Bay Area,” continued Shepard. “I knew the West Coast supervisor of Equibase chart callers, so I e-mailed her after I graduated from U of A [last year]. Literally 30 minutes later, she called me and said, ‘If you want to, we can do something.’ I trained with longtime Golden Gate equibase chart caller Steve Reed. Steve retired in 2021…and here we are.”

Like any writer, Shepard considers calling and composing charts an art form.

“I love writing,” said Shepard. “I’ve always really enjoyed making the notes. Even when I was just a horseplayer, I would pay attention to the races and the trips. Now, this job affords me to pay really close attention to the races. I enjoy being the voice of how a horse performed in a race.”

So immersed in the performances of each horse on the Northern California circuit, Director of Racing Martinelli felt Shepard would be a great fit as the morning line oddsmaker. Shepard was offered the job this summer and took the position without hesitation.

Being fairly new at making morning line odds, Shepard says it can be a painstaking, trial-and-error process.

“I’ve made my own morning lines for the Breeders Cup Classic and Kentucky Derby before,” said Shepard. “I try to not re-invent the wheel as much as I can.

The first thing I try to answer is who is the horse to beat. After I answer that question, I sort of do it in a bell curve. Are there horses that don’t fit the race and or are going to be big price horses? Then, I look at human connections. There are certain high percentage barns and high percentage jockeys that I give more credence to. I also like to note how a horse was bet in their last race or two, especially for those specific conditions.”

To make a full card’s worth of morning lines, Shepard says it takes about two hours on average.

Shepard, who sees himself as a fan of the game, is happily enjoying every day of his horse racing venture. One thing’s for sure: he never misses the story of a race.

“It’s an interesting way to go from point A to B to C,” said Shepard. “I handicap the race beforehand, call the race, and then write the chart for it afterwards. I’m sort of following it all the way through. That’s really cool for me.”


Below is a list of claims from last week:


Race 6: Peacehaven (New owner/trainer D. Wayne Baker)

Race 8: Arma D’Oro (New trainer Jonathan Wong…new owners MJVET Stables, Clay and Carlene Sides)


Race 6: Stateforest (Reid France…Hat Trick Racing)


Race 6: Descartes (Sammy Calvario…Mary Tucker)

Race 8: All (Jack Steiner…Robert Del Vigna, Frances Jefferson, and James Maher)

Race 8: Lady Brett (Jack Steiner…Michael Radovich)


No claims


Below is a list of Northern California horses and human connections competing on the final week at Del Mar:


Race 3: Fixurhairupretty (Trainer Andy Mathis…Jockey Ricky Gonzalez)

Race 4: Holy Ghost (Aggie Ordonez…Tiago Pereira)

Race 4: U.S. Danger (Jonathan Wong…Kyle Frey)

Race 5: Emma’s Dance (Ed Moger Jr…Diego Herrera)


Race 10: As Amatter of Fact (Jonathan Wong…Hector Berrios)

Race 10: Heaven Shines (Jonathan Wong…Emily Ellingwood)


Race 2: Kingmeister (Bill McLean…Kyle Frey)

Race 4: Smiling Thunder (Jonathan Wong…Umberto Rispoli)

Race 4: Amanda Rose (Ed Moger Jr…Tiago Pereira)

Race 7: Evenrevenworse (Bill McLean…Kyle Frey)

Race 9: De La Luna (Quinn Howey…Armando Ayuso)

FINISH LINES: Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away Thursday, was the breeder of 2022 San Francisco Mile winner Evening Sun. Her Majesty the Queen was a big supporter of horses and horse racing, owning her own breeding and racing operation, and also enjoyed horseback riding as a hobby…Nominations close at midnight for the Golden Gate Distaff, a one mile and a sixteenth turf race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. The race is scheduled for next Saturday, September 17…Bett on Blaze, a half sibling to multiple Golden Gate stakes winner Bettor Trip Nick, broke his maiden on debut for trainer Monty Meier in the nightcap on Monday…Alert: Trainer Steve Specht is one win away from career victory 1,500…San Francisco Mile fourth place finisher Tom’s Surprise was victorious in Race 5 on Monday at Del Mar, a specialized starter allowance, for trainer Andy Mathis. Mathis has had a sensational summer at Del Mar, with a 12 for 40 record (30%) at the boutique summer meeting…$18,150 is the jackpot carryover amount in the Pick 6 heading into Friday’s card. A Super High Five carryover of $4,468 is offered in the next race on Friday in which there are five or more starters.