11/08/2012 2:06PM

Golden Gate: Anytime Magic, Epic Electorate face critical tests in Golden Nugget

Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
Anytime Magic is trying to recapture the form of his first two starts, victories in the Lost in the Fog (above) and the Everett Nevin-Alameda County Futurity.

Anytime Magic, winner of stakes in his first two starts, and Epic Electorate, running in a stakes for the first time, are at career crossroads heading into Saturday’s $50,000 Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

They will have to face Southern California invader Strong Wind in the six-furlong race for 2-year-olds. The field also includes the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained duo of Zeewat, winner of the $75,000 Cavonnier Juvenile at Santa Rosa, and Outside Nashville, who just won a maiden race in one of the best 2-year-old performances of the year here; plus Hunger, who overcame early trouble to win his debut here in a $32,000 claimer.

Strong Wind comes off a fading ninth in the California Cup Juvenile, his first start around two turns, but likely will be favored off his prior stakes performances: a victory in the $100,000 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar, a second in the $150,000 I’m Smokin at Del Mar, and a fourth in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile.

Anytime Magic could give Strong Wind a tussle if he reverts to the form he showed in his first two starts. He won his debut in the Lost in the Fog Stakes here in June and then won the Everett Nevin-Alameda County Futurity at Pleasanton.

Since then he’s finished fifth in the Cavonnier and fourth after setting the pace in the one-mile Charlie Palmer at Fresno.

Trainer Bob Hess can’t explain why Anytime Magic has not run well in his last two starts, and he said another poor race on Saturday could lead him to reassess his options with the Fusaichi Pegasus gelding.

“The race at Santa Rosa, everything was against him,” he said. “At Fresno, he acted like he couldn’t go long.”

The return to his home track and to a sprint could be keys to helping the gelding rebound, and Hess said the gelding has been training well.

But when asked what he expected from Anytime Magic on Saturday, Hess said, “I don’t know.”

Trainer Rene Amescua is using the Golden Nugget to see if Epic Electorate belongs in stakes.

The 2-year-old Council Member gelding is owned by Karen and Mickey Taylor, who bred the gelding – a grandson of the Taylors’ legendary Seattle Slew.

Epic Electorate has never finished off the board but this is a big step up in class for him. He won a $25,000 maiden-claiming race in his third start and ran second and first in starter allowance races since then.

Amescua debated running Epic Electorate in a first-condition allowance race but, he said, “Sometimes you take a chance.”

“The horse tries every time, and he’s doing well,” Amescua said. “He’s not a very big horse, but he does have a very big heart.”