05/31/2011 4:52PM

Golden Gate Fields: Bold Chieftain a close second in Berkeley for third straight year

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Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
Bold Chieftain (1) falls a head short of Uh Oh Bango in Monday's Berkeley Handicap.

ALBANY, Calif. – Trainer Bill Morey Jr. used to like the “Groundhog Day” effect.

On Jan. 16, 1999, Dixie Dot Com, his first millionaire, won the Grade 2 San Fernando at Santa Anita. On Jan. 16, 2000, Dixie Dot Com won the Grade 2 San Pasqual, also at Santa Anita.

It has been similar, but far more frustrating, for Morey’s other millionaire, Bold Chieftain.

◗ Second by a head to Autism Awareness in the 2009 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap.

◗ Second by a head to Run It in the 2010 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap.

◗ And, uh oh, you guessed it: second by a head to Uh Oh Bango in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap on Monday.

“I guess this race is just beyond him for whatever reason,” said Russell Baze, Bold Chieftain’s rider all three years.

Autism Awareness was fourth in Monday’s running of the Berkeley. He has earned $355,892.

Run It followed up his first graded stakes win in last year’s Berkeley with a win in the Alamedan at Pleasanton and is 0 for 2 in two starts for a new barn this year. He has earned $251,520.

For the horse who most recently foiled Bold Chieftain, the Berkeley victory was a breakthrough.

Uh Oh Bango placed in a pair of Grade 3 races, the Iroquois and the Delta Downs Jackpot, as a 2-year-old. He was fourth in both the Grade 3 Rebel and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby as a 3-year-old last year before going to the sidelines with a fractured left cannon bone.

But he’s 2 for 5 while never missing the board in allowance company this year for trainer Kory Owens and now has $411,612, in addition to a graded stakes victory.

“It’s a big thing to beat a horse like that,” said Owens of edging Bold Chieftain.

Not bad for an Arizona-bred, but Uh Oh Bango’s sire, Top Hit, was a stakes winner at ages 2 and 3 and had multiple graded stakes places while earning $495,357. His dam, French Debutante, was 0 for 2, but she’s a daughter of French Deputy, and all four of her foals, including a full brother and full sister to Uh Oh Bango, are stakes winners.

Winning rider Aaron Gryder was without a mount for the race when his potential ride dropped out, but agent Dennis Patterson quickly lined up Uh Oh Bango.

“I was very excited to be named on him because the day before entries were taken, it looked like I’d be sitting in the jocks’ room for this race,” said Gryder. “I’ve got an app so I can call up past performances, and when I saw what he’d done, I told my agent he picked up a nice mount.

“It was neat to win because I’ve ridden for Kory before all across the country.”

Claiming trainers seek horses who like Tapeta

Kent Molinaro took a shot in the Berkeley with Knockout Artist, a 7-year-old gelding he had claimed for $25,000 two races back for his father’s Walnut View Farms.

Molinaro has a good track record with claims going back to Alki Joe 16 years ago, getting the sprinter to win the 1 1/2-mile Cal Cup Starter Handicap and later the Harvest Festival at Fresno.

Although Knockout Artist ran last after pressing the pace in the Berkeley, he did earn $19,800 with a victory in an optional $50,000 claimer in his first start for Molinaro.

Speed used to be the key ingredient for a Molinaro claim, but it isn’t any more.

“The big thing is if they like the Golden Gate Fields track,” he said. “We run over it nine or 10 months a year, and speed doesn’t seem that big an advantage. You have to find horses that like the track because they’ll be running there.”

Trainer Duane Offield, who doesn’t usually drop claims at the $25,000 level, is starting Deal Breaker for a $32,000 tag Thursday after purchasing him for $25,000 on April 29.

“The owner [Donna Eaton] didn’t want a $4,000 horse. She wanted a $25,000 horse because the purses are so much better,” said Offield, who trained California Oaks winner Lilacs and Lace before she was sold earlier this year after her Oaks victory.

“He’s very consistent. Every time he runs well,” said Offield.

The 6-year-old Deal Breaker has excelled on Golden Gate’s Tapeta surface and has been a success on turf, too.

“That’s something you’ve got to take into consideration up here, if a horse takes to Tapeta,” Offield said. “Otherwise, you just have to run on grass,” Offield said.

Martinez visits track

Jockey Michael Martinez visited Golden Gate Fields on Sunday for the first time since being paralyzed in a Sept. 12, 2010, spill.
Martinez had lunch with his wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Merari, in the turf club.

“It’s the first time he’s watched races live since his accident,” said Patterson. “We stayed five races, and he said he had a good time. A lot of people came up to him to wish him well.”

Patterson said Martinez’s competitive juices got flowing while watching the fourth race.

“My father [also named Dennis], who used to ride Michael a lot, had a horse running and was dueling down the stretch,” Patterson said.
“Michael started yelling at the jockey to switch sticks, which he did, but he still lost a photo.”

Patterson said Martinez hopes to return to the track before the meet finishes on June 12 and that he hopes to visit the jockeys'  room.

* Sunday’s Dollar Day will be Hispanic Heritage Day with the Banda Tierra del Sol band playing and the usual $1 parking, admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, and sodas.