OAKLAND STAKES ATTRACTS SOME OF THE FASTEST SPRINTERS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Some of the fastest one turn horses in the Bay Area compete in the signature race of the week, the $50,000 Oakland Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the Tapeta main track. Out of the eight entrants, half the field are stake winners.
One of the favorites will be Psycho Dar, an impressive winner of an allowance race at Golden Gate two starts ago. He returned to win the Harris Farm Stakes in his most recent start. Psycho Dar has never finished off the board in four career starts over the Golden Gate Tapeta and sports 10 wins, 5 seconds and 9 third place finishes from 39 lifetime starts. Regular rider Armando Ayuso is back aboard for trainer Sammy Calvario.
“I’m leaving the tactics up to Armando,” said Calvario. “I don’t give instructions for this horse. At Fresno, we drew the rail and Armando just smooched at him out of the gate and he went to the lead. We drew a better post this time and we don’t need the lead. My horse is doing great. I am very happy with how he is coming into the race. He’s doing just as well as he was before his last race.”
Trainer Tim McCanna has a strong 1-2 punch in this year’s rendition of the Oakland. The first of his duo is Top Harbor, who makes his second start off an 11-month layoff. In his first race off the break, he finished as the runner up behind Psycho Dar in the Harris Farm Stakes. Last year, he won the El Dorado Shooter Stakes at Golden Gate and was beaten just a neck in the Oak Tree Sprint at Pleasanton. Top Harbor is out of the broodmare Reba Is Tops, a 4-time stakes winner who also produced top filly and mare sprinter of 2021 Rebalation.
“Top Harbor got a lot out of his last race,” said McCanna. “Both of my horses worked together the other morning and they were moving well together. They’re both ready. Both like to come from a little off the pace.”
The second half of the McCanna tag team is Oakland Stakes defending champion Rager. An 8-1 upset winner last year, Rager has not raced since the 2021 Oakland. He posts 13 published workouts since returning to training in July. McCanna wins at an extremely strong percentage with horses who make their first start off a layoff over 180 days, striking at a 26% rate from a 38-horse sample. A Kentucky-bred son of Into Mischief, Rager was claimed by McCanna and owners Jethorse LLC for $40,000 in the summer of 2021.
“I was trying to get him into a race as a prep for the Oakland, but the race never filled,” said McCanna. “I would have preferred to have a race into him, but we really had no choice but to train him up to this race. He’s a fit horse. He’s coming into this race fresh but very fit off his works.”
Bobby’s Alibi makes his stakes debut for trainer Faith Taylor after a pair of first level allowance victories this fall. The Kentucky-bred son of California stallion Curlin to Mischief is projected to race from off the pace and will hope for a fast pace to run into.
Cool Mountain Lad won the Oak Tree Sprint at Pleasanton in July and was victorious in a second level allowance race over the summer at Golden Gate. In his most recent afternoon appearance, the Victor Trujillo trainee was well beaten in the Harris Farm Stakes at Fresno-a showing uncharacteristic of him given his consistent lifetime record (19 starts with 7 wins, 5 seconds, and 3 third place finishes.) He freshens up over two months and gets back to stakes company in the Oakland.
The speedy War Games returns to the races off a 3-month freshening for veteran conditioner Cliff DeLima. The last time War Games raced, he defeated Cool Mountain Lad and stakes winner Ultimate Bango in an open allowance race on dirt at Santa Rosa. We know he likes the Golden Gate Tapeta; 7 of 8 lifetime wins have come over said surface.
Irrefutable was a gate to wire victor at Sacramento two starts ago and returned to suffer a heartbreaking loss on September 2 at Golden Gate, stalking the pace early in the race, taking the lead in upper stretch and getting tagged in the final strides of the contest by race winner Cool Mountain Lad. He seems redemption while facing tough other new shooters in this stake event.
Torpedo Away rounds out the field. In his last afternoon appearance, Torpedo Away sat off the pace and came home strong to edge out several quality sprinters in a tough high-level claimer. Jockey Kevin Radke and trainer Blaine Wright team up together; they won last week’s Golden Nugget Stakes with 2-year-old California bred Clovisconnection.
First post on a 9-race card this Saturday is 12:45 PM.
$50,000 Oakland Stakes (Race 8 on Saturday: for 3-year-olds and up at 6 furlongs on Tapeta)
#1 Bobby’s Alibi (Jockey Irving Orozco…Trainer Faith Taylor…morning line odds of 8-1)
#2 Rager (Assael Espinoza…Tim McCanna…4-1)
#3 Top Harbor (Frank Alvarado…Tim McCanna…4-1)
#4 Irrefutable (William Antongeorgi III…Mike Lenzini…10-1)
#5 Psycho Dar (Armando Ayuso…Sammy Calvario…3-1)
#6 War Games (Francisco Monroy…Cliff DeLima…8-1)
#7 Cool Mountain Lad (Brayan Pena…Victor Trujillo…6-1)
#8 Torpedo Away (Kevin Radke…Blaine Wright…4-1)
VETERAN RADKE ENJOYING SUCCESS AS HE CRACKS THE TOP 5 SPOTS IN THE JOCKEY STANDINGS
Veteran jockey Kevin Radke has been around the block. Throughout a successful riding career, he has ridden at tracks across the country: Emerald Downs, Thistledown, Portland Meadows, and Prairie Meadows to name some. He even had a stint at the Bay Meadows 2003/2004 Winter/Spring meet, where he beat Russell Baze for a riding title.
“To be fair, the only reason I beat Russell is because he broke his shoulder and missed some time during that meet,” said Radke. “Chance Rollins and I were head and head for the riding title for months. Towards the end of the meet, I got lucky and won 5 races in one day. That sealed it.”
Fast forward to this September, when Radke had just finished second at the Emerald Downs 2022 meeting with 77 wins and a 21%-win clip. The Ohio native was contemplating where to ride during the fall and winter, and, after some deliberation, made the choice to ship his tack to Golden Gate.
“By far the most important thing for me was to be close to my wife Jamie,” said Kevin. “She’s in Seattle. I really wanted to be close to her. That was a huge factor. [Trainer] Blaine [Wright] said he would help me out if I came to Golden Gate and my Emerald Downs agent David ‘Marbles’ Singer was willing to come down with me. That was really helpful for me too.”
Radke moved to Golden Gate at the tail end of the summer meet and won a couple races closing week. The veteran rider then competed at the two-week Fresno meet, where he and Evin Roman tied for most victories with 7 apiece.
“We did really well at Fresno,” said Radke. “That helped my business. Winning is the best advertisement.”
At the current Golden Gate Fall Meet, Radke has cracked the top five in the standings. Halfway through of the meeting, Radke has won 10 races, which makes him 7 wins behind leading rider Roman and 2 shy of co-second place riders Assael Espinoza and William Antongeorgi III.
“I’m so lucky and blessed to have had so many people give me really nice opportunities and horses to ride here, and my agent ‘Marbles’ is doing an absolutely fantastic job,” said Radke.
Radke’s most significant win so far this fall came aboard the Blaine Wright trainee Clovisconnection in last Saturday’s Golden Nugget Stakes for 2-year-olds. Radke said he knew early in the race that his steed was ready to perform at a very high level.
“It was a gift for Blaine to put me on that horse. What an amazing animal,” said Radke. “It felt like I was skiing down the backside. I can’t believe I got lucky enough to get that mount because anyone could have ridden him. I am very grateful to have the opportunity for Blaine and for those owners.”
Radke can ride any type of horse, of course. And he has won stakes races in the Bay Area before. One of the fastest horses he ever rode was in the early 2000’s for trainer Cliff DeLima. El Dorado Shooter, an 8-time stakes winner who earned over a half million dollars from 2000 to 2005, was a mount Radke won on a handful of times. One race that stood out to Radke was the 2001 running of the Ken Maddy Sprint Handicap at Golden Gate.
“It was a muddy track that day,” said Radke. “We drew the rail. He went 21 and 3 and 43 flat and he won anyway. He beat really nice horses too. Echo Eddie, Full Moon Madness…it was a graded stakes type of field.”
Radke has no plans on leaving Golden Gate anytime soon. He is here to stay, and he gave a decisive answer when asked whether he has enjoyed returning to the Bay Area racing scene.
“I absolutely love it here,” said Radke. “I’m an older rider. I’ve had a lot of injuries and this Tapeta is much kinder on my body than some of the other tracks I’ve ridden at. Golden Gate is full of good jocks. If you make a mistake out there, you lose. And these guys don’t make many mistakes. We’ve got good riders here. You have to read the form and really prepare. It makes you better.”
MADEIRA WINE ON A ROLL; SEEKS THIRD CONSECUTIVE WIN
After a pair of poor efforts at Del Mar this summer, 4-year-old filly Madeira Wine was transferred to the barn of Tim McCanna by owners David Staudacher and Paradise Farms Corporation. Since the barn swap, the daughter of English Channel has won two races in a row: a $20,000 claiming race on Tapeta and, most recently, a first level allowance on November 4 over the GGF turf course.
“I was a little surprised she went off at 8-1 in her first start up here because she ran against good company down south,” said McCanna. “She’s done well ever since we got her.”
Madeira Wine looks for a three-peat while wheeling back in two weeks in Race 7 this Saturday, a first level allowance at one mile and a sixteenth. The race is run on the Tapeta.
“I think she really likes it here,” said McCanna. “She’s been doing well. We’re gonna try to strike again when the iron’s hot.”
Madeira Wine is listed as the 7-2 co-second choice on the morning line. The morning line favorite is Shezaghost, who won at this condition the last time we saw her compete on the Tapeta. That day, she defeated next out winner Imperial Creed. She drops in class after a poor effort on turf, a surface that she is not raced effectively over.
Race 7 is the appetizer before the main course. Race 8 on Saturday, the Oakland Stakes, is our marquee race of the week.
Race 7 on Saturday (First level allowance for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up at one mile and a sixteenth on Tapeta)
#1 Momma Mocca (Jockey Irving Orozco…Trainer Manny Badilla…morning line odds of 10-1)
#2 Bandeena (Assael Espinoza…Ed Moger Jr…9-2)
#3 Always Seeking (Evin Roman…Jack Steiner …8-1)
#4 Misty Cat (Catalino Martinez…Dan Franko…20-1)
#5 Shezaghost (William Antongeorgi III…Steve Sherman…5-2)
#6 Stoic Luna (Armando Ayuso…Mike Lenzini…7-2)
#7 Vincero Grande (Frank Alvarado…Andy Mathis …6-1)
#8 Madeira Wine (Kevin Radke…Tim McCanna…7-2)
TO SPEIGHT HER THE ONE TO BEAT THIS TIME IN SUNDAY FEATURE
Coming off a maiden special weight victory at Del Mar on September 5, you would think To Speight Her would be listed as “the one to beat” in a first level allowance at Golden Gate a month and a half later.
That was not the case on October 21. On this particular afternoon, To Speight Her was set to face Johnny Podres, who was entering the race having just won on the Golden Gate Tapeta by over a half dozen lengths. Along with the large margin of victory, Johnny Podres’s final time was only .03 seconds slower than the track record for 6 furlongs. With the big effort in mind, Johnny Podres was switching surfaces to the ground To Speight Her has thrived over: turf.
Nonetheless, To Speight Her was sent off as the second choice in the wagering behind Johnny Podres. To Speight Her went to the lead, was challenged by Johnny Podres for the length of the stretch, and ultimately passed in the final 50 yards by the aforementioned foe. To Speight Her ran a winning race, no doubt, but had to settle for second.
About a month later, To Speight Her is back in action at the first level allowance condition again. This time, he will sprint five-and one-half furlongs on the Tapeta, and there is no Johnny Podres to have to worry about. Although he has never competed on the Golden Gate synthetic main track, To Speight Her has trained over the surface for a large portion of his career.
Among the leading contenders looking to play spoiler is Heavenly Prince, who won on debut in stylish fashion for trainer Steve Sherman three weeks ago. October 21 allowance third place finisher Star Racer and Conundrum, coming off a sharp win against lesser off a re-claim by trainer Ed Moger Jr., should also get plenty of support in the wagering pools.
77 horses are entered in 9 races on a strong Sunday card. First post is 12:45 PM PT.
Race 8 on Sunday (First level allowance for 3-year-olds and up at five- and one-half furlongs on Tapeta)
#1 Our Bold Prince (Jockey Armando Ayuso…Trainer Eddie Rich)
#2 Star Racer (Frank Alvarado…Angelo Tekos Jr)
#3 To Speight Her (Kevin Radke…Andy Mathis)
#4 Arma d’Oro (Irving Orozco…Dan Markle)
#5 Blazing Jamie (Santos Rivera…Cliff DeLima)
#6 Awesome Dude (Francisco Monroy…Marcelino Trujillo)
#7 Conundrum (Silvio Amador…Ed Moger Jr)
#8 Heavenly Prince (William Antongeorgi III…Steve Sherman)
Below is a list of claims from last week.
Race 3: Benson (New trainer D. Wayne Baker…New owner Richard Barton)
Race 5: Perfect Ice Storm (John Sadler…Cicero Farms LLC)
Race 5: Starship Endeavor (Jonathan Wong…Johnny Taboada)
Race 5: Sugary (Brendan Galvin…Galvin and Pamela Ziebarth)
Race 8: Danielle’s Secret (Jack Steiner…Remmah Racing Inc.)
Race 4: Ottawa Fire (Guillermo Preciado…Preciado and Jerry Puertas)
Race 5: Command a Premium (Isidro Tamayo…Sergio Salguero)
Race 5: Speed Grazy (Steve Sherman…Sherman and Zvika Akin)
Race 9: Jan Jan Can (Owner/Trainer Steve Sherman)
Race 6: Implicitly (Eddie Rich…Rich and Run For Us Stable LLC)
FINISH LINES: A salty group of allowance horses sprint in Race 2 on Sunday. The field includes Southern California shipper Appreciated, overachiever Darn Quick, ultimate pro Honeymoonz Over, the well-traveled I’m Corfu, the speedy Lord Brancusi, well-bred Murphy’s Tiger…Also on Sunday, a maiden special weight for 2-year-olds (Race 6) kicks off the Late Pick 4 sequence…On Saturday, a maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies (Race 6) drew a full field…No carryovers heading into Friday.