05/26/2012 2:16PM

Golden Gate: Awesome Gem, 9, one to beat in Berkeley

Tom Keyser
Awesome Gem returns to Golden Gate Fields, where he won in April, for the Grade 3 Berkeley on Monday.

There’s a familiar storyline heading into Monday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields: A highly accomplished veteran millionaire heads the field and will be the target of several very sharp opponents.

But instead of the favorite being Bold Chieftain, who lost the race by a head in each of the past three years, it will be Awesome Gem.

Among his main opponents in the 1 1/16-mile Tapeta race are Hudson Landing, Gallant Son, Positive Response and Anthony’s Cross.

The 9-year-old Awesome Gem drew the rail and makes his third start following a six-month layoff. He won his comeback at one mile here on April 12 and then finished seventh when moved up from eighth on a disqualification in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy at Hollywood Park on May 5.

Trainer Craig Dollase concedes Awesome Gem “possibly” bounced in his last start, but says: “He bounced out of it in good shape. We’ve regrouped and he’s worked well twice, so we’ll come back to where he won his previous start.”

Hudson Landing won the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate on April 28, making him 3 for 3 since trainer Blaine Wright claimed him for $50,000 on Feb. 25.

Wright said he has had success with Hudson Landing by “looking at the little things.”

“You always want to see how a horse eats, and you get to know his attitude,” Wright said. “Does he come to the front of the stall and seek attention? You try to learn these things.”

Wright gives credit to groom Pasqual Garcia and jockey Juan Hernandez for some of Hudson Landing’s improvement. Hernandez has ridden Hudson Landing in his last three starts and will be aboard on Monday.

“It’s hard for me to get Russell Baze or Aaron Gryder,” Wright said. “I’m not a powerhouse stable. But I thought Juan fit him because the horse is pretty adaptable, and Juan showed me he had a really good head. He can be on the lead, close or come from deep out of it.”

Other contenders include Gallant Son, who was third in the San Francisco Mile in his first start in eight months; Positive Response, who returns to the main track after trying turf; and Anthony’s Cross, who is a Grade 2 winner. Where’s the Remote, Michael the Man, and Bonfire Knight also were entered.