06/18/2015 10:06AM

G. G. Ryder makes dirt debut in Oak Tree Handicap

Vassar Photography
G. G. Ryder will start on dirt for the first time in Saturday's $50,000-added Oak Tree Handicap at the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet.

There seems little doubt that G. G. Ryder, the winner of the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile and Grade 3 All American in his past two starts, is Northern California’s best runner. He has four wins and a second in five Northern California starts this year but faded to eighth in his lone Southern California appearance.

So, it’s not surprising that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has said the 4-year-old Chhaya Dance colt will stay in Northern California.

But the winner of 10 of 19 starts and $375,114 gets a new test Saturday when he races on dirt for the first time in the $50,000-added Oak Tree Handicap at the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet. His lone dirt experience came in his first two works as a 2-year-old at Santa Anita.

The lack of dirt experience might not be a drawback because only one of G. G. Ryder’s six rivals, stablemate Zeewat, has won on a fast dirt track. Zeewat has two stakes wins on dirt and ran third in last year’s Oak Tree Sprint here.

While dirt doesn’t seem a deterrent for the high-quality runner, it does create a question mark.

:: Oak Tree at Pleasanton: Watch live video of Saturday’s card

G. G. Ryder’s longtime rival, Pepper Crown, Northern California’s top handicap horse last year, has raced only once on the dirt, finishing third in his racing debut here, but he does train here.

G. G. Ryder’s other stablemate, Outside Nashville, the runner-up in the All-American, ran second in the Livermore Valley Wines Stakes here as a 3-year-old.


G. G. Ryder (Last 3 Beyers: 98-90-95)

◗ Will dirt change the form of Northern California’s top runner? He’ll likely be heavily favored, so if you have questions, here’s your chance to search for value.

◗ He’s also spotting rivals weight after running at even weights in recent heats.

Pepper Crown (Last 3 Beyers: 95-86-95)

◗ He ran third in his career debut here.

◗ He and G. G. Ryder have been closely matched, but his rival has handled him in their past two meetings after losing a photo to him and has won four of their past five meetings.

◗ This is Pepper Crown’s home track, and he trains here. Is that enough to change the recent form?

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Outside Nashville (Last 3 Beyers: 96-95-87)

◗ He split the top pair in the All American and will be making a late run here. He finished evenly last time.

◗ He ran second in a 3-year-old sprint stakes in his only start here.

◗ He’s making his first start at this distance, but he might appreciate it given the way he finishes at a mile.