05/28/2012 8:29PM

Golden Gate Fields: Awesome Gem elevated to first in Berkeley via disqualification


ALBANY, Calif. – Awesome Gem had done just about everything in a 50-race career, but did something new in winning the $100,000 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Monday.

The multi-millionaire won on a disqualification for the first time in his career.

As trophy presentation photos were being taken for the connections of Positive Response, who was first under the wire, three-quarters of a length in front of Awesome Gem in the 1 1/16-mile race, the announcement was made that Positive Response had been disqualified from first to fourth, making Awesome Gem the winner.

Not that he, too, didn’t run a winning race.

Awesome Gem  was far back early as Michael the Man gamboled on the lead through fractions of 25.23 seconds, 50.78, and 1:15.09. He was last in the field of eight, trailing by 8 1/2  lengths after six furlongs.

Favored Awesome Gem ($8) had saved ground all the way, but jockey Aaron Gryder swung him out into the clear in the stretch, and he finished best of all in the race, which was run in 1:45.82.

While Awesome Gem sailed home in the clear outside, Positive Response, who was content to sit off Michael the Man’s dawdling fractions, took charge in the lane, but he drifted in twice, eventually forcing Anthony’s Cross’ s rider, Kerwin John, to take up inside the sixteenth pole as Anthony’s Cross then bumped into Hudson Landing.

After drifting in, Positive Response straightened out and finished well. Hudson’s Landing rallied to take third from Anthony’s Cross.

The stewards disqualified Positive Response for causing interference, placing him fourth. Hudson Landing moved up to second with Anthony’s Cross third.

Positive Response’s rider Julien Couton said, “He drifted out in the stretch so I switched the stick to my right hand and he came in a little.  I drifted in a little bit but I don’t know if I cost anyone a better placing.

“I think he was the best horse in the field. It’s just bad luck.”

Winning jockey Aaron Gryder said he was fortunate to avoid trouble.

“The pace was slow but I didn’t want to take him out of his game,” Gryder said. “Rather than jam him up there, I decided to let him get into his stride and save ground. The pace was a lot to overcome but he’s a very classy horse and showed it today.

“There was a lot of bumping and squeezing going on in front of me in the stretch but we were able to avoid it.”

Winning trainer Craig Dollase, who admitted he was lucky to get the win, was happy with his 9-year-old Awesome Gam’s effort even to run second.

“He made his run but came up a little short. For him to close off those slow fractions and get up for second was incredible. But he’s an incredible horse.”

The victory was Awesome Gem’s 11th. His $60,000 earnings boosted his career total to $2,821,370 for owners West Point Thoroughbreds.