After a two week break that saw live racing at the Fresno Fair, Golden Gate Fields opened is fall meet last week with several intriguing questions.
Would Jerry Hollendorfer rebound from losing the summer meet to Steve Sherman? Would Aaron Gryder prove his win in the summer meet jockey standings was no fluke? How long will it take jockey David Lopez to win his milestone 1,000th race?
While the first two answers will take some time to pan out, they did give us a good preview of what’s to come.
Through the first four days of racing, Sherman has a 6-5 lead over Hollendorfer and Gryder has started out red hot, winning 8 races.
Lopez, well, he too wouldn‘t waste much time.
The 30-year-old native of Peru, entered the new meet on Thursday one win short of his milestone.
He pecked away at the number during the short Fresno meet, winning on 4 of his 10 mounts to inch closer.
Thursday and Friday, he went 0-for-6 and on Saturday had a second place finish in his first mount. Later in the day, he seemed in a good position turning for home in race 3 but a rider-less horse carried his mount wide into the stretch, thwarting that effort.
As he went to the paddock for the seventh, I said to him “bad luck on that last one.” He responded saying “I thought maybe that was it, but it didn’t work out.”
After an 0 for 10 start to the meet, Lopez climbed aboard Sourdough Sam for the $50,000 Oakland Stakes. Although his horse was 3-for-4 on the GGF Tapeta surface, ‘Sam was not popular at the windows, going off at odds of 9-1. The big favorite of the race, Shudacudawudya, was the hot horse, going for his third straight win.
The race played out like many thought, with a speed duel up front, playing right into the hands of the favorite, who possesses a strong finishing kick. Turning for home, Francisco Duran put Shudacudawudya in the clear and ran down pacesetter Starboardlights near the wire. Unfortunately for the favorite, he wasn‘t the quickest down the stretch as from dead last, Lopez guided Sourdough Sam down the far outside and flew past Shudacudawudya in the shadow of the wire.
“Everything worked out good,” a happy Lopez said afterward. “He broke a little slow but I didn’t panic, I knew I had a good horse. I didn’t want to move too early, so I stayed patient like the trainer told me to do. Once I got him out, he did his thing in the stretch.”
Lopez has showed great consistency over his career. In 7,710 mounts, he has 1,000 wins, 1,150 seconds and 1,154 thirds.
Lopez has left many marks in the bay area, winning the 2007 California Derby on Bwana Bull and the 2009 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap on Autism Awareness.
But now, it will be that riveting stretch run from the clouds on October 22, 2011 that put the rider into the record books.