Photo: Don August
When the nominations closed for Saturdays $50,000 Jess Jackson Owners Handicap, word going around the track was that the prospect of facing returning Gig Harbor would keep the field small despite having 17 on the nomination list.
Instead of facing him, they found a way to keep him out of the race. At least for now.
A full field of 10 signed on forcing two horses, He’s a Dance Star and Gig Harbor, to the also eligible list. The reason for being on the outside of the field was the preference to money won in 2013. Neither horse has run since 2012. Barring any early scratches, neither will make an appearance on Saturday either.
When last seen, Gig Harbor was a Golden Gate Fields monster. He had won back to back races in the easiest of front running contests, including the $50,000 Oakland Stakes. However in early January, Gig was injured while training, forcing him to the sidelines. He came back to the track again in June and would have probably been an early favorite in the Jess Jackson.
Another comebacker, He’s A Dance Star, has been in the money 11 of his 12 races down south, but hasn’t been seen on the track since June of 2012.
If you think these exclusions leaves the Jess Jackson with a void of talent, think again.
The 10 horse field features four stakes winners, with two of them being graded stakes placed.
Favoritism will probably come down to two horses come post time. Ain’t No Other and Ourwestcoastghost are receiving the most publicity going into the race.
Ain’t No Other is a 3-time stakes winner and a third place finisher in the Grade 3 Dayton Stakes at Santa Anita. He has four second place finishes in stakes competition, including this race a year ago.
Ourwestcoastghost (above) is the hottest of the local horses right now, going for his fourth straight win. He tried and passed his biggest test to date last month at Pleasanton, when he triumphed in his first stakes race, the Casual Lies. In that race, a slow start forced jockey Abel Cedillo to come from off the pace instead of his usual front running style, and he narrowly got up to defeat favorite Distinctive Passion, from the Jeff Bonde barn. Passion then went to Del Mar and easily won an allowance race. Saturday opponents Moonshine Bay and Ain't No Other also were beaten by Ghost in the Casual Lies but the winner now tackles the turf for the first time.
Add to them 2011 Grade 3 British Columbia Derby winner Northern Causeway, three time stakes winner Zeewat, multiple stakes placed Starboardlights and runner up in the Albany Handicap, Moonshine Bay, will provide plenty of competitiveness to the race.
O’Callaghan Does the Right Thing
Southern California based trainer Carl O’Callaghan shot to world acclaim in 2010 when his star Kinsale King won the Dubai Golden Shaheen sprint. Since that day, King has been a cult hero with a following usually reserved for the best the business has to offer.
Since that day O’Callaghan has picked his spots for the King, running him in just 8 races, with the sole win coming at Golden Gate Fields in 2011.
Well, once again, the trainer has picked a good spot for his horse, that of a stable pony.
Callaghan recently posted the news on his Facebook page.
“Sad day here today but a great day, Kinsale King has been retired due to a small injury. The good news is, he is very sound and will become a great pet and great pony. We caught the problem before it could have been very bad. After X-rays, scans and even a MRI yesterday, we decided it's time to do the right thing for the horse, he owes us nothing. He brought a lot of dreams come true for both me and my owner. He has touched a lot of hearts in so many ways, and I'm happy he can spend the rest of his life with me.”
In this day and age, which horse aftercare is such a hot topic, it’s refreshing to see a trainer think of the horse over all else. In fact Kinsale King is the second horse this week that O’Callghan retired. Just last week, the trainer re-claimed a horse named Hedger. The 4-year-old was claimed from O’Callghan at Golden Gate in June and after a race at Sacramento (where he lost the rider at the start) broke his maiden at the Sonoma County Fair last week.
O’Callaghan dropped the claim slip, took back his horse and retired him.
A few classy moves by a classy man.