Two year old stakes races are always so fun to try and figure out.
Win your debut and you’re a stakes horse. Gotta love it.
Nine horses went to post on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields in the $50,000 Golden Nugget Stakes, for, you guessed it, two-year-olds. We had an interesting cast of hopefuls.
Post time favoritism went to So Cal Invader Coach Sickie with Alonzo Quinonez up. The Coach was 1-for-1 in his career with a tidy 5 length win in a maiden special weight race at Santa Anita.
Second choice was a Jerry Hollendorfer trainee, Johnny Be Mine, with Russell Baze aboard. He too won his debut race at Santa Anita. Next we had Sheer Talent ridden by Brice Blanc. ‘Talent had won his maiden race, then ran sixth in a $250,000 stake race at Del Mar, losing to the talented Drill by less than four lengths.
The most experienced horse in the race was Chips All In, who was a perfect 3-for-3, including a win in the Gold Rush at Arapahoe Downs. Aaron Gryder was along, as he was for two, of the horses’ three wins.
It was all set.
Johnny Be Mine was the speed, and Coach Sickie and Chips All In would sit right off the lead while Sheer Talent would be the come from behind horse. I had it all figured out.
Well, I got part of it right. Johnny Be Mine set the pace, Chips All In and Coach Sickie landed just off the pace and when the field turned for home, Gryder put all his chips in and took the lead in mid-stretch.
But, oh yea, these are two-year-olds and anything can happen. And it did.
On the far outside, from last place at the half mile mark, came Passing Game.
Who? Passing Game, a 39-1 long shot with stakes expert Kevin Krigger in the saddle and The Game nosed out Chips All In at the wire for the upset.
“The trainer told me he was ready and I rode him like he was ready,” Krigger said.”I went 5 or 6 wide into the stretch, I just followed Aaron (Gryder) cause it looked like he had the most horse. He (Passing Game) kind of made it easy because he finished up pretty strong.”
It was the second stakes win for Krigger of the meet. And for Passing Game?
He’s won his first two races now at odds of 20-1 and 39-1.
Jerkens Takes New Post
GGF stakes coordinator David Jerkens was named the racing secretary last week, replacing Sean Greely. Jerkens, who had been the Greely’s assistant and stakes coordinator since his arrival from the east coast in 2005 was brought into the job by Greely. Greely was laid off by GGF in a cost cutting move.
“Sean is a good friend of mine and was wonderful to work for,” Jerkens said. “I’m blessed with a very good staff and we are going to do the best job we possibly can. We will be committed to getting the best product we can out to the public.”
Jerkens worked at NYRA (New York Racing Ass.) for over 5 years before coming to the west coast. He comes from a family of trainers, grandfather (Allen), father (Steve) and brother (James).
“Coming from a trainers background, living with a trainer my whole life, I understand the day to day business they go through. As far as the horseman stabled here I feel I’ve had a good rapport with them for the last 6 ½ years and that will certainly help.
“I want to thank the Stronach group for giving me my first opportunity. They gave me my first racing secretary job so I’m forever thankful for that.”