04/26/2017 11:30AM

Alert Bay, G. G. Ryder expected for San Francisco Mile

Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography
Alert Bay wins last year's San Francisco Mile. On Saturday, he will try to become the second horse to win the race back to back.

Golden Gate Fields hosts its biggest weekend of the year Saturday and Sunday when it runs a trio of turf stakes – the Grade 3, $100,000 San Francisco Mile on Saturday and a pair of $100,000 races Sunday, the Campanile for 3-year-old fillies and the Silky Sullivan for 3-year-olds.

Of late, Northern California runners have dominated the San Francisco Mile, having won six of the past seven editions beginning with Bold Chieftain in 2010. Other locally raced winners were Our Nautique in 2011, Hudson Landing in 2012, Pepper Crown in 2014, G. G. Ryder in 2015, and Alert Bay in 2016. The Southern California-based Tigah won the race in 2013.

Alert Bay and G. G. Ryder each will be looking to become only the third runner to win two San Francisco Miles, with Alert Bay hoping to match Battle Dance (1957-58) as a back-to-back winner.

Alert Bay scored a one-length victory over Star Student in an April 2 prep race when returning from 7 1/2 months on the sidelines. Over the past four years, the winner of the race’s local prep has lost in the Mile. That’s not a big surprise, considering the preps all came on the main track.

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Trainer Blaine Wright said he didn’t think Alert Bay was ready to win the prep, although Jockey Juan Hernandez told him the horse was fit. Alert Bay came from 13 lengths back to win.

“I think the fractions worked in our favor,” Wright said. “Class horses can overcome a lot.”

A millionaire, Alert Bay beat four other stakes winners in the prep, with third-place G. G. Ryder and fourth-place Stryker Phd likely rivals Saturday.

Star Student will be entered in the San Francisco Mile in hopes rain will force it to the main track, but won’t run on the turf, trainer Dan Markle said.

Mile probable Many Roses was a pace factor before fading late in the stretch in the prep, but he won two allowance races on turf here over the winter.

“We know we’re jumping up,” said trainer Ellen Jackson, who added that Many Roses bled a bit in the prep.

Trainer Tim McCanna said he may run Squidward, who graduated over the turf here last spring and then ran third in the Robert Dupret Derby on the Santa Rosa turf.

Wright said he had planned to run the much-improved Westley, who has won three straight races, all sprints, but that a bruised foot will keep the horse out of the Mile.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” he said. “When a horse gets good, you want to give them a chance.”

Although the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby has become Northern California’s signature race, the San Francisco Mile used to hold that position.

At one time run on dirt, the Mile has been won by the legendary Citation, Determine, Native Diver, and Tight Spot.

Not much turf experience

Ten fillies were nominated to the Campanile, but only one of them, Miss Sunset, has won on turf.

Five of the 14 Silky Sullivan nominees have won on the turf, but only Tribal Storm and Burnt Cognac have run on the turf here. Tribal Storm won his career debut in a five-furlong turf sprint here, and Burnt Cognac, a recent Santa Anita maiden turf winner, ran third over this course.

Five other nominees, including More Power to Him, runner-up in both the California Derby and El Camino Real Derby, would be making their turf debuts.