04/17/2012 10:39AM

Golden Gate Fields: Awesome Gem pointing to Mervyn LeRoy or San Francisco Mile

Tom Keyser
Awesome Gem may try to defend his Longacres Mile title this summer.

Trainer Craig Dollase got exactly what he wanted when he sent his multi-millionaire Awesome Gem to Golden Gate Fields for his 9-year-old debut last week. Awesome Gem won the one-mile allowance race, which was switched from turf to Tapeta, and came out of the race in good shape.

“He doesn’t know he’s 9,” said Dollase after Awesome Gem’s half-length victory last Tursday over pacesetter Positive Response. “It was a nice comeback.”

It marked the second year in a row that Awesome Gem had debuted in an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields. Prior to the race, Dollase said that the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile on the Golden Gate Fields turf on April 28 was definitely on his radar, but after the race he seemed to be leaning toward running Awesome Gem in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy, a 1 1/16-mile race on the main track at Hollywood Park on May 5.

“We will be selective in our spots this year,” said Dollase. “We’ll keep our options open.

“The San Francisco Mile will get a look, but we’ll also consider the [Mervyn LeRoy]. We’ll look at the nomination lists for both races.”

Awesome Gem ran at a different track in each of his eight starts last year. Dollase said he isn’t planning any cross-country excursions this year, although he might send Awesome Gem to Emerald Downs for a defense of his Longacres Mile victory.

Positive Response finished second in a Golden Gate allowance race for the second straight start, having finished behind Live Sundays in March. Positive Response, 4, won the California Derby on the Golden Gate Tapeta and the John Battaglia Memorial on the Polytrack at Turfway last year, but he has never raced on grass. Trainer Billy Morey said he had hoped to see how Positive Response handled turf.

“I’m happy with the way he ran,” said Morey. “He had a bit of pressure on the pace, and the one that pressed him faded.”

Morey said Positive Response also is being considered for the Mervyn LeRoy, although the San Francisco Mile was the goal even though his star would have to run on the grass for the first time in that race.

“It’s always tough to make your first start on a new surface,” Morey said.

Dunsmore East, third behind Awesome Gem and Positive Response, could also be set up for the San Francisco Mile. Both of his turf victories have come here, including a solid second-level allowance win at one mile.