07/05/2009 11:00PM

Bonde comes up big in front of home crowd


There's hot, red hot, and white hot. In Pleasanton, there's now Bonde hot.

Trainer Jeff Bonde won seven races, including both Thoroughbred stakes, during the first week of the Pleasanton meet. His wins came from 10 runners entered in nine races.

Bonde was working at his barn Monday morning, pinching himself to see if he was, as he put it, "in horse heaven."

"I've been training a long time and never had something like this," said Bonde, who is from Pleasanton.

Bonde's big week began when his first starter, Tango Mango, set a track record of 55.69 in winning a five-furlong race for a $12,500 claiming tag on opening day last Wednesday. Bonde went 3 for 4 on Thursday, winning with 2-year-old maidens Izzy Rules, Cruzin Topless, and Norcal Invader, before Noel's Vixen stumbled badly leaving the gate and ran last. On Friday, he won with another maiden, Island Drifter, and also ran eighth with Gold Star.

Favored Excessive Passion won Saturday's Everett Nevin for Bonde, with stablemate Ministers Power seventh. Sierra Sunset won Sunday's Alamedan Handicap.

Bonde joked that after Tango Mango's victory there wasn't room in the winner's circle for the horse because there were so many of his friends there. It was no joke after the Alamedan. There were so many people crowded into the winner's circle that the photo had to be taken on the main track because the winner's circle was overflowing.

Excessive Passion, who is now 2 for 2, having won the first 2-year-old race of the year in Northern California, will go to Del Mar with stablemate Smiling Tiger, who is also 2 for 2 in his career. Excessive Passion is slated for the $100,000 Graduation Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs for California-breds on July 29.

Excessive Passion is by Danzig's lightly raced son Vronsky. Vronsky has had only four other starters. Smiling Tiger, who won his debut by six lengths and the Lost in the Fog Stakes at Golden Gate by eight, is eyeing the Grade 2, $150,000 Best Pal at 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 9.

Philip Lebherz is a part-owner of both Excessive Passion and Smiling Tiger. He and Bonde have won seven straight races with 2-year-olds. Lebherz also owns a share of Sierra Sunset.

Bonde said Sierra Sunset would be pointed to the Grade 3, $300,000 Grade 3 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 16.

"One reason is that it's a Win and You're In race for the Breeders' Cup [Dirt] Mile," Bonde said.

Despite his big week, Bonde leads the Pleasanton training race by only one winner over Billy Morey, who had 6 winners, 6 seconds and 1 third from 17 starters.

Russell Baze stands alone in the jockey standings, with 13 wins from 29 starts. He also has 9 seconds and 2 thirds.

Golden Gate meet figures

Golden Gate Fields, which concluded a 114-day meeting on June 14, averaged $2.6 million per day in all-sources wagering on its races, according to figures provided by the track. Ontrack handle averaged $209,320.

Because of the length of the meet, meaningful comparisons could not be drawn with past seasons at Golden Gate.

"We had some of our biggest attendance days sprinkled through the meet, with 8,000 on New Year's Day and closing day and a day with 11,000," said Golden Gate Fields general manager Robert Hartman. "Consistency turned out to be a big positive for us. The fans and horsemen hung in with us during the long meet."

* Handle rose dramatically at the the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton, which ran for nine days, from June 18-28. The increase was attributable in part to a change in schedule. Last year, the meet was held in September, when there was no fair.

On-track handle on the races at Stockton increased 28 percent, with all-source handle up 22 percent.