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Bay Area Backstretch

Big Opportunities in the Berkeley

Holiday racing returns to Golden Gate Fields on Monday and the $100,000 Berkeley Stakes will be the featured event on the Memorial Day card.

The race drew only eight horses but a story can be told for quite a few. 

We have the ever popular and million dollar earner Bold Chieftain and the San Francisco Mile winner Our Nautique as two of the most notable entered. Southern California based Uh Oh Bango and Molibized are also in along with local stakes winner Autism Awareness and up and coming stakes winner Hudson Landing.

Adding to the intrigue are a pair of runners that have certainly made a name for them selves and now will be trying to do the same for their unheralded connections.

Delightful Kiss has earned nearly 1.1 million dollars and Knockout Artist has the second most wins in the field (10, behind only Bold Chieftain’s 17). Yet they will be saddled by a pair of trainers, who despite great success, will probably never see their names near the top of the trainer standings.

Aggie Ordonez (above) and Kent Molinaro wont jump out as household names in the training circles but both have proven they know how to get to the winners circle, time and time again.

Molinaro has run just six horses at the current meet but has four wins and a third.  Last year he had seven wins from just 28 starters, with 18 of those landing in the money. It will be the first stakes race for the 47-year-old in quite some time.

“I don’t remember when my last stakes race was,” said Molinaro, who has been training since 1986. “Around here there aren’t many races for a horse like this. He’s been training well, he has some back class so we’ll take a chance.”

Molinaro currently has 12 horses in training at Golden Gate, up from the four he had just a few months ago. He has just a few owners he trains for  and at a small track with some big barns to compete against, he knows there is a ceiling for his numbers.

“There just aren’t a lot of new owners getting in the sport, and when they do, they look at the trainer standings to pick a trainer,” he said. “But there’s a trade-off with not having a lot of horses. I have a wife and two kids and I get to spend a lot of time at my kids baseball games and stuff. I just want to make enough money to have a decent life and be respected by my peers.”

Ordonez has trained Delightful Kiss for about a year now after her father, Pete Anderson, decided to take time away from training the horse that he helped make a multiple stakes winner over his 32 career lifetime starts.

She is sure that ‘Kiss is ready for his first race since July of 2010.

“He’s in good health and he’s been working very well, he‘s ready ,” Ordonez said. “Also he holds the track record for a mile and an eighth here and he likes this surface. He will tell me if he’s able to compete.”

Orodnez, like Molinaro, has had good success from limited starters. This meet she has six wins in 25 starts with a total of 14 in the money placings. In 2009, she started 73 times and hit the board with 42 of them, including 10 wins. 

Currently she has eight to 12 horses in training and while she is always looking for new business, she is content with the number she has right now.

“I know everything about every one of my horses and I like it that way,” she said. “My horses will never be just a number in stall to me. I love all of my horses and most of them have been with me for a quite a while”

Ordonez began her career in 1997 assisting trainer Brent Sumja. She became a trainer in 2004 and immediately had 14 winners in 68 starters that year. Winning The Berkeley Stakes could do a lot to enhance her career.

When I asked her if she agreed in the term “small time trainer” she did…for now.

Both Ordonez and Molinaro are hoping Monday they can become “big time trainers”.


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Older Comments about Big Opportunities in the Berkeley...

Being a Chief's mess in the United States Navy.. Definately pulling for Bold Chieftain here as well. Additionally it doesn't hurt that I went to Salesian HS in Richmond which was home of the Chieftain
Rooting for Bold Chieftain here!

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Meet Don August

I have been involved in horse racing, from a fan to sportswriter, for the past 30 years. The first time my dad took me to the track, I picked a horse named "Black Tornado" and when he won, I was hooked.  From then on, I spent weekends and occasional school days at the race track, and my enjoyment of the sport led me to try my hand at being a jockey agent, which i did for 3 years. When that didn't work out as I had hoped, I concentrated on my writing career by covering big races and doing summer fair handicapping, off and on, for the Contra Costa Times.

Today, I stay involved in the sport by being part of a group that currently owns two horses stabled at Golden Gate Fields. As all owners, we have dreams of someday having that special horse.  Besides writing about horse racing I enjoy covering many sports and have had the honor of meeting and writing about some incredible athletes.

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