There is just one week left in 2011 and while nobody knows what the future holds for Golden Gate Fields, one thing we do know, is the past year was a banner one for the little track by the bay.
Trainers, jockeys and horses were thrust into the national spotlight over the past 12 months and I might be biased, but I’d say they did a pretty good job of representing the bay. But I will let you be the judge.
Positive Response - The William E. Morey trained son on Pomeroy, won the California Derby and ran third in the El Camino Real Derby at GGF before traveling to Turfway Park where he and his rider Julian Couton won the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. His run ended with a 8th place finish in the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, a race that was won by eventual Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.
Northern Causeway - Trained by Len Kasmerski and ridden by William Antongeorgi III, the son of Giants Causeway went from a win at the Pleasanton Fair, to a pair of wins in Canada, winning both the Richmond Derby Trials and the $200,000 British Columbia Derby.
Halo Dolly - The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee won seven races in the year, six at GGF and one big one at Del Mar when she captured the $100,000 Solana Beach Handicap. Only 17 horses in the country won more races than her.
Jerry Hollendorfer - Need I say why? Probably not but I will anyway. Not only did Jerry continue to win stakes races all over the nation, this year he won 241 races (so far), reached the lofty mark of 6,000 career wins and was voted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Jeff Bonde - The Pleasanton based trainer hit fame with a trio of runners. Smiling Tiger won three stakes races, the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita, the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn Park and the Triple Blend Handicap at Hollywood Park. But its was two surprise horses that made the nation know his name in Twice the Appeal and Sway Away. Twice the Appeal pulled off a shocking win in the Sunland Derby when scoring at 24-1 and used that to make the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 10th. Sway Away did not make the Derby but did run in the Preakness, finishing 12th.
Steve Sherman - The son of longtime GGF based trainer Art, made his own name in the racing world, winning 146 races so far, ranking his 12th on the national list of trainers for 2011.
On the local level, looking at the list of the 100 top jockeys (in 2011 wins) courtesy of Equibase, five riders are on that list. They are Russell Baze (287 wins), Kevin Krigger (165), Aaron Gryder (161) ,Frank Alvarado (142) and Juan Hernandez (133). The top 100 trainers included Hollendorder (241), Sherman (146), Frank Lucarelli (101), William E. Morey (81) and Steve Miyadi (74).
A Year to Remember
A few GGF favorites strutted their stuff in 2011 as well. We saw the return to racing of Shudacudawudya, who came back off a year layoff (recovering from leg injuries) to win 3 races and run second twice in 5 starts…..Bold Chieftain seemed to turn back the clock as the 8-year-old ran 8 times, winning 1 while finishing second 6 times….Apprentice jockey Kyle Frey left the track he grew up at with 10 wins last January and went on Parx Racecourse in Philadelphia where he currently has 145 career wins and is making a run at the Eclipse Award for apprentices…..Jockey David Lopez won his 1,000 career win when he rallied Sourdough Sam to a win in the Oakland Stakes.
What could we possibly be looking forward to in 2012?
Well a few horses come to mind. One is the red hot Lady of Fifty, who has won 3 of 4 career starts, and is coming off back to back wins in the Golden Gate Debutante Stakes and the Corte Madera, staking the claim of the best two-year old filly on the grounds. Next on her sights in the California Oaks in late January. Also, we should be seeing the return of Gig Harbor. After winning 3 of his first 4 races, he has been off since May when he scored a ½ length win in the Alcatraz Stakes (left).
Happy Racing everyone and we will see you in 2012.