Playing the claiming game can be a challenging one for owners and trainers. A bad claim can forever tarnish a reputation. But a good one? Well, it can help make a career.
Case and point was on display at Golden Gate Fields Sunday.
Eleven fillies and mares went to post in the $50,000 Golden Poppy Stakes. Four of them were trained by hall of fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, including odds-on favorite, and seven time stakes winner, Halo Dolly.
But when the gates opened, a 12-1 longshot named Luscious Lonna went right the front and never looked back. The 5-year-old by Benchmark out of Striking Gold, went wire-to-wire, finishing off a 2 ½ length win under wraps. Why was her victory so significant? You have to look at where she came from to appreciate what her and her connections accomplished.
Lonna was claimed by trainer Nick Sloan for $6,250 out of her second career race. She came to his barn a perfect 2-for-2 and Sloan immediate jumped her to an allowance race, where she ran third but paid a price.
“In that race she got banged around a little at the quarter pole and got knocked into the fence and sustained an injury that required some time off,” Sloan said. “Sometimes with lower level horses you might think about doing something else and not keeping them around for a year but she showed such talent and heart, we thought it was wise to keep her and looks like we made the right decision.”
Lonna was off 16 months and came back to run sixth in a starter allowance and then won a $12,500 claimer. From then on out, she has been a major player in five allowance races with three wins and two seconds, leading into her stakes win.
“Anytime you reach this level you’re running against Jerry,’ Sloan said.” Jerry had more horses in the race than I have in my barn. But I thought she deserved this race and getting her a black typed placing will help her future.”
So together, Lonna and Sloan have seen their careers grow. Lonna has made over $137,000 in her eight starts under Sloan and the trainer started 46 times in the last two years and has 13 wins and an in the money percentage of 54%.
The win was also vindication for jockey Jesus Velazquez. The low profile rider was aboard Lonna for her first six races before being replaced for the next four races. Velazquez and his agent found themselves having to choose between mounts for a race and after choosing against Lonna, fell out of the the trainers good graces. But in a case of time heals all wounds, Velazquez found himself back on the winner when it counted the most.
“I had to get out there being on the rail. I was surprised nobody went out with us on the lead,” Velazquez said of the race. “When I asked her on the far turn she took off. She’s as good as she ever was."
Trainer Patterson Passes Away
Longtime GGF trainer Dennis Patterson passed away last week at the age of 77. Patterson, who trained horses since 1957, died of natural causes. He battled bouts of Pneumonia over the past few years.
Among Paterson's best horses were Run It (winner of the Grade 3 Berkeley Stakes, Carbonite (2-time stakes winner) and Devilsh Nature (champion of the 1995 River Edge Stakes at Bay Meadows.)
“Dennis was a wonderful horseman, his horses always came ready to run,” said veteran trainer Duane Offield who trained along side Patterson for the past 45 years. “ He was also a very elegant speaker. He spoke at a seminar one time and it was like listening to a school teacher. He was just a great man.”Patterson’s barn will continue to be run by his son Bill (his assistant trainer) and daughter-in-law Christy Wiebe who is married to Dennis Jr, a successful jockey agent at GGF.