04/19/2011 11:28AM

Golden Gate Fields: Bonde entering a busy stretch in California, Kentucky

Coady Photography
Trainer Jeff Bonde will soon be heading to Louisville to prepare Sunland Derby winner Twice the Appeal for the Kentucky Derby.

This will be a busy week for trainers Jeff Bonde and Steve Specht.

Bonde, at least, was able to catch his breath early this week in his hometown of Pleasanton, but he has stakes runners at both Golden Gate Fields and Hollywood Park as well as Keeneland.

“I’m here till Friday,” Bonde said Monday from his Pleasanton stable after a long trip home from Oaklawn Park, where Smiling Tiger and Road Ready scored stakes victories last week and Sway Away ran fourth after taking the lead in the stretch of the Arkansas Derby.

On Saturday, Bonde plans to run Strawberry Tart in the $50,000 Work the Crowd at one mile on the turf at Golden Gate Fields. The 5-year-old mare has run only twice since a strong 3-year-old season in 2009, when she won the Manhattan Beach and Flawlessly and lost by a nose in the Grade 2 San Clemente. She ran in the spring of 2010 and was eighth in the 6 1/2-furlong Irish O’Brien at Santa Anita on March 19 in her first start in 10 months.

Bonde said she didn’t handle the tricky downhill course particularly well at Santa Anita. He’s hoping for an improved try Saturday.

Bonde has nominated Classic Bobby and Sierra Spirit for the $70,000 Grey Memo and Brown Is Beige for the $70,000 Warren’s Thoroughbred. Both races are Saturday at Hollywood Park on California Gold Rush Day.

He also has Hurricane Lake, who has won two straight at Golden Gate, ready for the Grade 3, $200,000 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland.

After this week, Bonde will find himself settling in with Sunland Derby winner Twice the Appeal, who will be at Churchill Downs preparing for the Kentucky Derby.

As for his success last weekend, Smiling Tiger won the Grade 3, $200,000 Count Fleet Handicap, his seventh win in 14 career starts as he boosted his earnings to $995,864. Road Ready, who won his debut in last year’s Lost in the Fog at Golden Gate Fields, made his first start in six months, winning the $75,000 Bachelor.

Bonde said Smiling Tiger’s victory “might have been the best performance of his career,” which included a pair of Grade 1 victories last year.

Road Ready stumbled out of the gate, but Bonde said, “For his first race back, he ran really well.”

Bonde said Sway Away still has something of a herd-horse mentality and “pulled himself up when he got the lead, even though we added blinkers.”

Specht also has some stakes runners this week.

Gig Harbor, undefeated in his first two starts, will run in Thursday’s opening-day Hollywood Park feature, the $70,000 Harry Henson at six furlongs on the turf. Lady Railrider will run in Saturday’s $125,000 B. Thoughtful at 7 1/2 furlongs after winning her past two starts at Golden Gate Fields.

Specht also will send out Antares World as the likely favorite in the Work the Crowd here Saturday. She missed by a neck to Lady Railrider on the main track here March 5.

“She’s better on the turf,” Specht said of Antares World, who has a pair of turf wins, including last year’s Golden Poppy here, and ran second in the Grade 1 American Oaks.

Specht is hoping for a confidence-building win in the Work the Crowd for Antares World and then will look at some turf stakes at Hollywood Park next month.

Specht also comes off a pretty good week, with Justenufappeal giving him his second straight victory in the Golden Poppy last Saturday in her turf debut. She took the lead early in the race, was forced out while possibly lugging a bit on her own on the first turn, dropped back to fourth, but rallied strongly for the win.

“That filly’s a trying little son of a gun,” Specht said.

He credited jockey Russell Baze with finally getting her to settle down and then not panicking when several runners passed her down the backstretch.

“She’s pretty versatile and a nice filly,” said Specht, who will weigh options for her next start.

Expected to join Antares World and Strawberry Tart in the Work the Crowd are Ms. G.I. Jane, Point of Reference, and U R All That I Am.

Alcatraz prep a close one

Seven 3-year-olds prepping for next month’s Alcatraz on the turf finished within three lengths of each other Sunday in a one-mile turf allowance race.

Winner Life Is a Rock edged Northern Causeway by a nose while staying four wide most of the way. Favored Duke of Doom, who finished a half-length behind Northern Causeway, may have been best. He was crowded and checked on the first turn, squeezed through tight quarters along the rail to take the lead, and was caught in the final stride.

◗ In addition to the usual Dollar Day promotion, Easter Sunday will be a Family Day at Golden Gate Fields with an Easter egg hunt at 11:30 a.m. in the winner’s circle and a variety of free activities, including pony rides, bounce houses, face painting, and balloon artists.

There also is a special brunch featured in the Turf Club.

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