Monday’s Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap had almost as much intrigue after the race as it did going into it. A
much anticipated match up between up-and-comer Hudson Landing (winner
of the San Francisco Mile) and nine-year-old stakes veteran Awesome Gem
(highest current money winner with over 2.7 million in earnings) proved
to be tough for the bettors to pick a favorite, as both went off at
3-1. The race went pretty much as expected in the early going, Speedster Michael The Man set honest but slow fractions while
Positive Response keep the leader to the task. Hudson Landing and
Anthony’s Cross raced as a pair a few lengths off the leaders.
the field rounded the turn in the stretch, Positive Response put away
Michael The Man and got first jump on Hudson Landing and Anthony’s
Cross, who were making their move together. Awesome Gem, last at the
half mile mark started slowly gaining into the stretch and went to the
outside of a crowding field. That move by jockey Aaron Gryder proved to
be the key to his race.
mid-stretch, Positive Response drifted out slightly, forcing Anthony’s Cross to shift inside. As Anthony's Cross and Hudson Landing tried to
gain on the leader, ‘Response then drifted in near the finish, forcing
Kerwin John on Anthony’s Cross to take up and bump Juan Hernandez on
Response went on to be the first under the wire, out finishing a steady
closing Awesome Gem by ¾ of a length, who stayed clear of trouble on
the outside. He was ½ length clear of Hudson Landing and Anthony’s
the horses jogged back, the inquiry sign went up as both the stewards
and jockey Kerwin John claimed fouled against winning jockey Julien Couton.
horses unsaddled and headed to the backside. While Couton and John
talked to the stewards, the process of awarding the connections of
Positive Response continued, including a very large and happy group of
people posing for the winners circle picture.
later, as the trophy presentation was about to happen, track announcer
Michael Wrona announced that Positive Response had been disqualified and
placed fourth for interference in the stretch. The stewards decision,
although unanimous, caused for many opinions to be mixed.
Immediately, some fans were yelling of a southern California prejudice.
While Positive Response’s trainer William E. Morey declined comment, his jockey didn’t agree with the decision.
don’t think I cost anybody a better placing,” said a disappointed
Couton. “My horse ran a very good race. He kind of drifted out in the
lane and I switched my stick and he drifted in but he responded every
time…that’s all I can say.”
who called an objection , was sure he was denied a better placing. “The
first time he came out it stopped me in my tracks, then he came back in
again. It may not have cost me the race but it cost me second or
Gem’s connections, although in the winners circle to be presented the
trophy, was denied a winners circle picture because the horses had
already been returned to the testing barn.
an incredible horse. We were the recipient of a good situation, “ said
trainer Craig Dollase. “ I was surprised when I saw all the horses
leaving because I saw the race and said that 'horse is coming down' but
they took the picture and everything so I guess we will have to super
impose him (into the winners circle picture)," Dollase said with a
Actually the connections did take their own picture on the backside to commemorate the win.
GGF general manager Joe Morris agreed that the picture should have been done on the track.
should have both stayed," Morris said afterward. " I think since the
second place finisher was not the one filing the objection, he just
jumped off the horse and went barn. This is something I have corrected
for the future."
Awesome Gem added to his legacy with his first Grade 3 win and Hudson
Landing looks to the future on yet another top performance, but what
shouldn't be lost on people is that Positive Response showed he is all
the way back from a one year layoff and was the best horse on this day.
a tough 2011 when he won the California Derby and the Johnny Battaglia
at Turfway (before finishing 8th in the Spiral Stakes), 'Response has
clawed his way back to be a tough customer going forward the rest of the