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Last Weekend of Racing in Pleasanton This Summer

24 Jul

By Dennis Miller

It is down to the last three days of racing in 2020 for the Alameda County Fairgrounds, with cards taking place Friday through Sunday

The post time each day is 2:45 p.m.

The 6-week run started with four weeks of racing under the banner of the Alameda County Fair, then has been followed by two weeks of racing allotted to the California State Fair.  The State Fair opted to run its two weeks of racing at Pleasanton, allowing for a 6-week stretch where the horsemen would be at one place.

Here is a look at the three days of racing, split into the three different days.

Friday: My day will start with the second race with Big Hoof Dynamite (No. 4, 2/1). The Eddie Truman runner has hit the board 4-of-7 starts this year against tougher competition he faced down south. Now he comes north and picks us the dependable Kyle Frey for the ride. He should sit just off the lead in the route race and be ready to roll in the lane.

In the third my play is with Buttie (No. 3, 9/2). A nice medium value play for a race she seems poised for a big run for trainer Isidro Tamayo. Buttie is making her second start off a break, an angle where the barn is hitting at 24 percent. Draw a line through the last start which came on the turf at Golden Gate Fields. The horse draws the services of William Antongeorgi and has won three times in seven starts on the dirt and has won 40 percent of her starts at the distance.

I will skip to the fifth race next where it looks like a two-horse race between Maxinamillion (No. 1, 7/2) and Kona Coast (No. 3, 3/1). The morning line favorite is Top of the Game (No. 6, 2/1) but I think this is a great spot to knock off the favorite. Maxinamillion blew down the lane on the track two weeks ago to get the win in his first start on the dirt. He gets the services of Frey, who appeared to have choice of a couple of mounts in this race. Tamayo is the conditioner and hits at 24 percent when coming off a win in the last start. Kona Coast is coming off a break for trainer Jonathan Wong and the barn does his at 24 percent in first off, a break. Antongeorgi jumps into the irons for the seventh straight race, the last two were wins. The horse has hit the board in six of 10 career starts on the dirt.

My last play of the day will come in the seventh and final race of the day. I am going to close the day with another value bet, playing the outside horse Crimson Cloud (No. 9/5-1). Trained by Roger Hanson, the horse has hit the board all three starts over the Pleasanton track, including a third on June 27 against better. The 9-year-old mare is easily the career earnings leader in the field and gets a big upgrade with Frey taking the call. Although you have to go back to June 18, 2018 for the last win, this will be the softest spot the horse has seen in some time and I am thinking the old gal will have enough gas in the tank to get it done.

Saturday: The 8-race card features another running of the $50,000 Everett Nevin Stakes, a 5-1/2-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds and is one of my favorite races each year of the Pleasanton meet. It gives us a chance to see who some of the top 3-year-olds may be in Northern California next year.

I will start with the stake which is the sixth race and set for a 5:11 p.m. post.

The winner sure seems like they will come from one of three horses. Top Harbor (No. 1, 3/1) comes from the Tim McCanna barn and won in straight maiden race on June 20 at Pleasanton. The horse broke well, stayed just off the pace then came home with the one-length win. Frank Alvarado had the mount that day but is now under quarantine so Antongeorgi takes the mount.

Hendavid (No. 5, 7/2) comes up from the south where he broke in his debut at Santa Anita for trainer Luis Mendez. The horse was well bet in his debut and proved worth, winning by over three lengths.

Finally, Tom’s Song (No. 6, 5/2) runs for Steve Specht. The horse also got a win in the debut, clearing the field at Golden Gate Fields by over two lengths on May 24. Alvarado also rode this one, with Frey now picking up the mount.

I went back and forth on this one. It is tough to split up three horses that have all won in their initial starts. All took action at the window and all produced. The tote will be key here as it will be interesting where the money goes to the three favorites right around the same odds on the morning line.

At this point, I am leaning towards the rail horse Top Harbor. The horse was in the toughest duel in the lane of the three and dug in to pull out the win. The others did not have the battle in the stretch and while they may have heart as well, I will look to the one that has shown it.

Earlier in the card, I like Take Me for a Spin (No. 1, 9/5). Wong trains and Frey rides a horse that has hit the board in both starts.  After winning in his debut in straight maiden company he came back, found trouble, finished second and then was moved to third. That was at Pleasanton June 21 and now a month later – an angle the barn hits at 25 percent – I think there is every reason to see a win. Ricky Gonzalez has the two previous mounts, but he’s gone to Del Mar.

In the seventh race, take a good look at Myangelcindy (No. 3, 3-1) and Carrie’s Success (No. 6, 2/1). Myangelcindy has put a plus-70 Beyer figures in five straight races, with three of those races exceeding 80. In her last start she wired many of these over the Pleasanton track in an allowance race at the same distance for trainer Clifford DeLima with Alvarado up. David Lopez takes the mount.

Carrie’s Success is a Wong/Antongeorgi combination that is also coming off a win at Pleasanton, but in a different style, circling the field five-wide before pulling away for the win in the claiming race. A bit of a step forward, but nothing to phase me for a horse that has hit the board in all five starts this year and in 15-of-20 in her career.

I probably will not play the eighth race, but if you are so inclined one of interest figures to be Simply Charming (No. 3, 4/1). How this 5-1/2-furlong $5,000 claimer finishes up is anyone’s guess, but I will tell one thing – Simply Charming will go to the lead and should be out front at the top of the lane. From there the question is whether she can hold on or not. I did have this horse at 30-1 a couple of years back and he got the lead and was not caught for a nice pay day. Two wins in 34 starts does not lead to a lot of confidence but you might catch lightning in a bottle twice!

Weekend Picks – July 17 – 18

17 Jul

By Dennis Miller

Three more days of races in Pleasanton kick off today at the Alameda County Fairgrounds with a 2:45 p.m. post.

After four weekends of racing under the banner of the Alameda County Fair, the next two weeks will be part of the California State Fair as they elected to run their allotted days of racing in Pleasanton.

The highlight of the weekend of racing will come Saturday with the running of the California Governor’s Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up.

The race is set for the 8th on Saturday with a 6:12 p.m. post time. The morning line favorite for the race is Mother of Dragons (2/1), a runner owned and trained by Andreas Psarras.

Julien Couton is up for the second straight race and is coming off a win in a $40,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields on May 31. The horse had been off for almost two years before coming back in January of this year.

She ran third in her debut and followed with a fifth, both in allowance races. Following another allowance race in March where she finished second, but was dropped to third after a review, Mother of Dragons came back with the win in the optional claimer.

Now after a break she is back here taking on five other runners. The last two starts she has shown the propensity to go to the lead, but history shows she can win from just off as well.

She has five wins in 11 career starts.

Princess Vivian (3/1) is the second choice and hails from the Sergio Ledezma barn.  Ridden by Catalino Martinez, the last start was a fourth over the turf in the Camila Urso at Golden Gate Fields on May 30.

This will be the first start on the dirt for the horse and is a move the barn rarely makes. The horse likes to come from off the pace and will need some serious pace out front to have a legit shot.

Misirlou (7/2) is trained by Steve Specht and will have the services of Frank Alvarado, a jockey that has hit at 36 percent in Pleasanton this year. The horse has one start on the dirt, a second-place finish in her debut in Santa Rosa last year.

That was followed by three straight wins and after the last of that run in early November, she was sent to the bench before returning May 31 with a third-place run in an optional claimer at GGF in the race that Mother of Dragons was the winner.

Since then there has been a series of good works and I look for a much stronger conditioned horse here.

Doug O’Neill will send Biddy Duke (6/1) north for the race and will have Kyle Frey in the irons. With 15 career starts over the dirt, Biddy Dukes has almost double the dirt experience from the rest of the field combined.

She has four wins in those starts and has hit the board in nine runs on the main track. The last start was a third-place effort in a stake at Santa Anita, the first start for O’Neill after his connections claimed the horse for $40,000 in the previous race.

The horse has the outside post and figures to be the one that sprints out to the lead and will certainly be right there at the very least.

Left Alone (5/1) runs for Manny Badilla gets William Antongeorgi for the ride. The winner of two of four starts this year, this will be another to push the pace, but not set it. The last start resulted in a poor seventh in the Camilla Urso where the horse never got going over the turf at GGF.

Badilla’s runners fare decent with the turf to dirt angle and Left Alone did a have bullet work on July 11, the best of 64 runners at five furlongs that morning.

Finally, Blue Diva (6/1) runs for Isidro Tamayo and has Francisco Monroy to handle the reigns. After a pedestrian sixth – last place – in the Golden Poppy at GGF in early June, Blue Diva came back to run fourth in an allowance race in Pleasanton on June 28.

The horse has shown to be more of a stalker than a pace setter and cuts back from a route to a sprint here. Not sure she has enough speed to stay close enough here.

My pick: This is a race where I will not go to the window until just before the race starts. If the early speed is holding is the case in Pleasanton, then my money would find its way to the outside with Biddy Duke. I just think the horse has seen much better races than the others and as one of only two 3-year-olds in the race, she is still getting better.

If the track has shown to set up for closers, I would be chasing who I think will get first run on the leaders and that would be Misirlou. The horse will sit closer than the other closers and hitting the lane first could be the key!

Friday’s card (7 races, 2:45 p.m. post)

The feature appears to be the second race at one mile and 70 yards and will go off at 3:22 p.m.

The $62,000 optional claimer will have a field of five, two of which will run for a tag.

Touched by Autism (3/1) has been a favorite of mine for awhile now. Owned by Johnny Taboada and trained by Marcia Stortz, the horse has been off for a year before returning to run last in the four-horse field of the Oak Tree Sprint on July 4.

Now he is back here and figures to be much stronger as he stretches out under the ride of David Lopez. This is the first non-stakes start in the last races and only the second non-stakes in the last 11 starts.

I just think there is too much here.

Arch Prince (2/1) and Builder (5/2) are the two favorites on the morning line. Arch Prince is trained by Samuel Calvario and is coming off a fifth in the Grade III San Francisco Mile over the turf on June 14 at GGF.

Builder runs for Tamayo and was the winner of a route over the turf at GGF on June 11. The barn is decent on the turf/dirt move, but he only has one win in 10 turf starts.

Sunday card (9 races, 2:45 p.m. post)

The most interesting race for me on Sunday to me is the 7th, a 5-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds.

It is these races during the summer Fair’s that give us a glimpse into what horses may be among the elite Northern California 3-yeard-olds next year.

Only three of these nine runners have a start, so it is tough to get any rhythm for this field.

Jonathan Wong is the top conditioner in Northern California and has a pair of first-time starters for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds and both should be ready to go for Wong, whose horses hit 19 percent in first stars.

Who You Say I Am has Lopez riding, with Lightinthedarkness has Alvarado up for the ride in his debut.

Of the ones with a start, Felix Rondan’s Champagne Pegasus looked the best, running third over the track in Pleasanton earlier in the meet. Catalino Martinez is back for the second start. The horse ran even in the debut but had no boost in the tank when they got to the lane. Expect more here.

In The Grandstand

16 Jul

By Chris Griffin

Growing up in Southern California, it was always a highlight to head to the races with my Dad. We would go through the turnstiles, I had to go under them, and embark on a wagering journey with the racing ahead. As a youngster, I couldn’t bet at a machine, or speak to a teller about the trifecta box I wanted. It was just me and Dad watching some races. Sure I would pick out a jockey with the silks that jumped out, I was a big Chris McCarron fan. Whenever he was riding I would always be rooting for him, I remembered taking a picture with him at the now closed Bay Meadows. I was around 9 years old, my Dad swung us by the track, and there he was, my favorite jockey. Snapped a picture and don’t remember ever going back to Bay Meadows again.

But I do remember from that day on, I always took notice at the racing in Northern California. I would watch jockey Russell Baze win race after race. However I remember another name in the program, jockey Frank Alvarado.

The 51 year old, has been riding in Northern California for decades. From Panama City, Panama, Frank Alvarado continues to win in Pleasanton. Alvarado has ridden 3,717 career winners to date, his 2020 win total sits at 59. Alvarado continues to prove age isn’t something that defines a top rider and athlete. Jockeys are the hero in one moment and criticized in the next, but Frank Alvarado delivers in Pleasanton day after day. It is very familiar to see Alvarado in the Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams silks. Racing fans will recall McCann’s Mojave after multiple victories up and down California. A notable victory came in the G3 Berkeley with Frank Alvarado aboard.

It was last week, Alvarado had 4 winners in one day. I caught up with him at a safe social distance and you could see the joy on his face. It’s the same thrill we experience when our horse crosses the wire first. He said “I miss the Fair, I miss my people”, it echoes how I have felt during this 2020 season. I, we miss everything about the Fair and the races. The crowds who pack the grandstand and enjoy a family day in Pleasanton, I miss it. After his big day, I took a moment and thought about the kid who took a picture with his favorite jockey. When I was kid, these jockeys were superheroes to me, and the more I think about it as an adult and track announcer that feeling has never changed. Their superhero suit may change from race to race, but the jockey and horse deliver in Pleasanton every time the gates open.

So when we are back in 2021. When we welcome everyone back to the Fair. I’ll be reminded of the kid waiting outside the jock’s room, to take a picture. Maybe this time, that kid will find Frank Alvarado.

Blog from the Booth

3 Jul

By Chris Griffin

When I traveled the globe with the “World Famous Harlem Globetrotters”, never would I have imagined I’d be in the booth entering another year of my horse racing career. 


It was a conversation with track announcer Frank Mirahmadi (also called races in Pleasanton) about announcing a horse race if an opportunity presented itself. Well as things turned out, I ended up with a job. It was at the Humboldt County Fair, a two-week opportunity at a job. I spent weeks studying and preparing for six furlong races, two turn races, a mile and a sixteenth race. So of course, when I arrived in Ferndale the first race was, you guessed it, a 220 yard mule race. Wasn’t fully prepared for this and at 1/9 thought Bad News Bubba couldn’t lose. So wrongfully I prepared to call the name Bad News Bubba as a clear winner. They loaded in the gate and with shaking knees, one big gulp. The gates popped open and Bad News Bubba broke LAST from the rail. Quickly running through the names of other mules in the field, I see a streaking mule with big floppy ears rolling on the inside. 


It was at that moment it all came back to me. I was a fan of this sport! The adrenaline rush of seeing, in this case a mule, charging next to the rail to win by a nose was the perfect way to start my career. Since then there have been many moments. Exciting races and photo finishes. The mechanics have adapted, the knees don’t shake as much, but the thrill remains the same. 


As I come back to Pleasanton, it is obviously different. The empty grandstands are part of a new reality we are all learning together, just like I have learned with each race in my career. The fair brings people together to enjoy heart pounding action accompanied by smiles and families. We miss crowds this year, we will remember this next year when we hopefully get back to packed grandstands. I walk through the gates and head upstairs on the elevator. It is quiet and peaceful, but when the horses are on the track, the rush comes back. The excitement flows and I work to bring the action to those watching from the comfort of their homes. In a year where there has been uncertainty, one thing I am certain of is Pleasanton is one of the most majestic and historic treasures in Northern California. There will be a time when the gates will open again, when we will have the rides, the games, and oh yeah the thrill of the horse races. I’d be honored to call the action that day.