When Gig Harbor crossed the finish line first last week in the Alcatraz Stakes, it was a day of triumph for 77-year-old owner Daniel O’Neill.
O’Neill has owned a stakes winner before. His last stakes win came in 2003 when Imadrifter won the Grade 3 $100,000 Berkley Handicap. But he thinks Gig Harbor can be a good one.
“He should be 4-for-4, but he didn’t get a good trip down south,” O’Neill said. “I really like Gig, he’s a smart horse and nice to get a long with.”
Gig Harbor, a three-year-old out of Miss Blue Grass by City Zip, won his first two races, before finishing third in the Harry Henson Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 21st. Last week’s Alcatraz was his first attempt at going a distance and he handled it just fine, going wire to wire in the 1 1/16th of a mile race.
O’Neill should be believed when he says he likes Gig Harbor. After all he has had a lot of practice in picking out horses.
Growing up in Ireland, O’Neill got his liking for the sport when attending Punchestown, a four day racing festival, that occurs once a year. He has gone back to attend the event for the past 10 years. He’s owned horses in Ireland, and even brought some to the states to race. Currently he owns some 22 horses, including 6 broodmares. It was during one of those trips that he bought Gig Harbor for $50,000 from his brother.
He is proof that with hard work, you can make things happen.
When he came to the United States many years ago, O’Neill got into the construction business and became a general contractor. He bought many properties in San Francisco, and after putting buildings on them, he sold them. He jokes that he has been told that there are some streets right now that should be named for him since most of the building on them, he built.
It was a career he used to fund his love of horses.
“I never thought I’d be where I am now,” O’Neill said. “I’m fortunate that I did the right things at the right times.”
Even though his attention is focused on Gig now, he is always on the lookout for more horses.
“Steve (his trainer, Steve Specht) has an open check book if he finds the right horse,’ O’Neill said. “But he’s pretty protective. He knows what he’s looking for.”
As for Gig, O’Neill says a little rest is due his budding superstar, so rest, he will get.
Nor Cal Represented well
A pair of stakes raced at Hollywood Park this past weekend was dominated by connections from Golden Gate Fields.
On Saturday, Ultra Blend from the Art Sherman barn, was awarded the win in the Milady Handicap after heavy favorite St. Trinians won the race by 1 ¼ lengths, but was disqualified for bothering Ultra Blend in deep stretch. Sherman trained at Golden Gate for many years before moving down south. His son Steve, is currently second in the GGF trainer standings behind Jerry Hollendorfer.
On Sunday, the Fran’s Valentine Stakes was decided when Logical Single out finished Lady Railrider by ½ length. U R All That I am was fourth. If they all sound familiar, they should. The trainers respectively are Dean Pederson, Steve Specht and Jerry Hollendorfer, all Golden Gate Fields trainers.