09/14/2010 12:30PM

Acaffella passed big test with stakes romp

Vassar Photography
Acafella gets his first career win with a victory in the Angel Island.

Trainer Richard Mandella had some initial misgivings about sending Acaffella north to run in the Angel Island Stakes given the presence of undefeated Luckarack, a two-time stakes winner in the field.

Luckarack’s trainer, Steve Specht, experienced a similar feeling when he watched jockey Russell Baze gallop Acaffella in a prerace leg-stretcher Friday morning.

Specht’s misgivings were better placed than Mandella’s after Acaffella made an explosive move into the lane and pulled away to win the 1 1/16-mile Angel Island by six lengths.

Mandella will now look ahead to the Norfolk at the upcoming Oak Tree meeting with hopes Acaffella, a Mr. Greeley colt, will earn his way to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Despite Luckarack’s fifth-place finish in an unlucky trip, Specht plans to run Luckarack in the California Cup Juvenile.

Acaffella came north a maiden, having run second in a race he could have won, according to Mandella. He left a stakes winner.

“At first, I thought, ‘There’s a horse running that’s 3 for 3,’ and I hate to throw a maiden into that type of situation,” Mandella said.

Mandella called entering Acaffella “an act of frustration.”

“I thought he should have won in his first start,” said Mandella of a one-mile turf test at Del Mar on Aug. 25. “Because of the timing of the Breeders’ Cup, I was desperate to get him starting back.”

With Southern California racing at Fairplex, Mandella’s options seemed limited. He said David Jerkins, the associate racing secretary at Golden Gate Fields, convinced him to run in the Angel Island.

Though he considered the competition tougher than many stakes races held here, Mandella said his colt must face and pass tough challenges if he is to go to the Breeders’ Cup.

Specht liked Luckarack’s chances going into the race until he saw Acaffella gallop Friday.

“When I saw the horse, I figured I was running for second,” Specht said.

It reminded him of another Southern California-based 2-year-old who came north to race at Bay Meadows on Dec. 4, 1991. That day A.P. Indy won a first-level allowance race.

“At this time of year when they have Pomona [Fairplex] going, you sometimes get some really good horses here,” said Specht.

Although disappointed by the outcome, Specht wasn’t disappointed by Luckarack.

“I attribute that to the trip he had,” Specht said.

Specht sdid that when Luckarack approached the quarter pole, jockey Frank Alvarado “tried to move out,” but that Corey Nakatani, aboard Moment of Weakness, “kept him inside, and he had to drop back.

“When you’ve been close to the lead and try to re-rally, it’s difficult for any horse, particularly a 2-year-old. If he got out, I think he would have made it interesting for second.”

Moment of Weakness, who went head and head with Luckarack as they stalked El Gaucho early, finished second, holding off King Cola by a neck. Bluegrass Reward was fourth, three-quarters of a length behind King Cola.

Trainer Dennis Patterson, who saw King Cola place in a stakes for the third time in his career, said his colt came out of the race fine,

“He ran a good race, but you could see the winner was in a different league,” said Patterson.

King Cola had some trouble down the backstretch getting crowded and dropping back, but Patterson made no excuses.

“He showed going a route will be no problem,” said Patterson, who will look for another route for the colt, who is eligible for starter allowance company.

Patterson says he sees similarities between King Cola and multiple stakes-winning Run It, who is enjoying a little rest and relaxation and will return from the farm in November.

“They’re both small horses,” said Patterson. “Run It always ran good and seemed to get better just like this one is doing.”

Restless Youth part of Hansen’s big weekend

Restless Youth, winner of the six-furlong Sam J. Whiting at Pleasanton, scored a solid victory in a six-furlong allowance race Friday. He had run third in the Joseph Grace on the turf between sprints.

His victory started a big weekend for trainer Roger Hansen, who saddled two winners Sunday, Lotus Girl and Rule He Must, for three straight wins. Hansen has four wins and a second from his past seven starters.

“He didn’t finish real strong,” Hansen said of the three-quarter-length victory. “When they wrote the extra, he’d only worked once since the [Aug. 8] Grace.

“He won the first start of his life, and he puts a lot into his works and gallops. I thought he was still in good condition because of his routes.”

Hansen said that there was a race in the condition book at Golden Gate Fields the first weekend of October that could be Restless Youth’s next start. He also would like to run him in the Mile on the turf on Cal Cup day and said he might just train the 7-year-old gelding up to the race.

More hot streaks

Hansen is not the only hot trainer.

Veteran trainer Bob Hess is having a great meet with 7 wins from 13 starters. Hess finished the winter-spring meet with 7 winners, along with 7 seconds and 9 thirds from 45 starts.

The 75-year-old Hess sent out Sammy Choi for his second win of the meeting Friday and saddled maiden winner Irish View on Saturday.

Jockey Russell Baze had four winners on both Friday and Saturday, including Acaffella.