05/30/2012 12:11PM

Golden Gate Fields: Hess's connection to Mohanna Breeze goes way back


Horse racing may be a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game, but for trainer Bob Hess, there’s a 50-year history surrounding Mohanna Breeze, who will make her stakes debut Saturday against six California-bred 3-year-old fillies in the $100,000 Campanile at one mile on the turf.

Mohanna Breeze, by Vronsky out of Woman At Work, was conceived shortly before the death of Dick Probert, a legendary aviator and California horseman, at age 101. Probert and his wife, Nancy, and James and Judith Huarte bred the filly, who runs in Judith Huarte’s name.

“I trained for Dick 50 years ago,” said Hess, who maintained the friendship although the Proberts only raced a few of the horses bred at their Rancho del los Avidores.

Hess bought the dam at the 1992 Del Mar yearling sale from Probert’s son-in-law for the Huartes. Woman At Work won 3 of 10 starts, including an allowance race, and has had seven foals.

Her first, also bred by the Huartes and Proberts, was her best – at least until now. Sycuan placed in the Juan Gonzalez, the Solano County Juvenile Fillies, and Mid Peninsula Stakes as a 2-year-old in 2000.

Mohanna Breeze will be making her third career start in the Campanile. She was third for a $32,000 tag while sprinting in her debut and then scored a wire-to-wire victory against straight maidens at one mile on turf April 22.

“We’re taking a shot,” Hess said. “She’s eligible for a lot of things, but so far, the way she’s run here, I think she has a shot. We took a shot when we ran in that maiden allowance race.”

Hess has had five weeks to prepare his filly for Saturday’s race and has worked her a half-mile, five furlongs, and six furlongs.

Hess is known for his ability to keep horses sharp and scores frequently off similar layoffs (seven winners in his past 22 starters), and he’s happy with the way Mohanna Breeze is coming up to the race.

While she can be a handful in the barn and was tough to break, Hess said, “In her races, she does everything well.”

Trainer Eric Kruljac will send Best Present Ever north for her stakes debut in the Campanile after two straight turf wins. Like Hess, Kruljac also trained his filly’s dam, Centerofattention, who was owned by Dennis and Norine Grenier who are Best Present Ever’s breeders and owners.

“She’s grass on both sides,” Kruljac said of the Unusual Heat filly.

Centerofattention won the Sun City at Turf Paradise and Solana Beach at Del Mar, both at one mile on the turf.

Best Present Ever picked up checks in her first two starts as a 2-year-old, before Kruljac decided to give her time to mature.

“There’s not that many Cal-bred races on the grass for 2-year-olds,” he said.

Best Present Ever has a second and a pair of wins as a 3-year-old.

“Her mother got better as she got older, and I think most Unusual Heats do, too,” Kruljac said. “But I think turf is a big part of it.”

Berkeley runners look ahead

Trainers Craig Dollase and Blaine Wright were happy to be moved up to first and second in Monday’s Berkeley Handicap, but they were equally happy with how well Awesome Gem and Hudson Landing ran and how they came out of the race.

Dollase’s Awesome Gem was last by 8 1/2 lengths after six furlongs, which were run in 1:15.09. He finished strongly and was three-quarters of a length behind Positive Response at the wire in the 1 1/16-mile race that was run in 1:45.82.

Wright’s Hudson Landing was third, a half-length behind Awesome Gem and a neck in front of Anthony’s Cross.

Those two were bothered when Positive Response came in inside the sixteenth pole. Kerwin John took up aboard Anthony’s Cross and bumped into Hudson Landing, knocking him sideways.

“Juan [Hernandez, Hudson Landing’s jockey] said he had just started his move, and he thought he was going to win when he was knocked sideways,” Wright said.

Wright said the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on the turf June 30 at Hollywood Park or the 1 1/16-mile Alamedan on the dirt July 1 at Pleasanton would be the next likely race. The Shoemaker is appealing because it is on Hudson Landing’s favorite surface and it is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race, but Wright acknowledges it would be a much tougher spot.

Still, he said, “Dreamers like to dream.”

The Alamedan would give Hudson Landing a dirt race and would set him up for the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, which has always been the long-term goal.

Billy Morey, Positive Response’s trainer, was not happy with the stewards’ decision, but he was pleased that his star had been first under the wire in another $100,000 race and came out of it fine.

“It was a long time coming,” Morey said. “We haven’t thought about his next race, but there are options.”

Apprentice Richard handed bans

Apprentice Ronald Richard had a tough weekend after winning races Thursday and Friday.

On Sunday, he was given a three-day suspension for June 3, 7, and 8 for a ride aboard Lovemeimyours in Saturday’s sixth race in which he did not maintain a straight course. Lovemeimyours finished third, but was not disqualified.

On Sunday, Richard was disqualified from fourth to fifth aboard Moonlight Classic in the sixth race for failure to maintain a straight course in the stretch and causing interference. He was given a five-day suspension to be served June 9, 10, 14, 15, and 16. He can ride the final day of the meeting on June 17.

Sweet promotion for Belmont

Golden Gate Fields has begun a sweet promotion for the June 9 Belmont Stakes. Track officials have begun making visits to various Bay Area locations handing out cookies to promote I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid.

The front half of the cookie wrapper invites people to Golden Gate’s “Triple Crown Party” with half off admission when presenting the wrapper at the gate. The other half explains the origin of the colt’s name telling of owner J. Paul Reddam’s love of cookies and his usual response of “I’ll Have Another” when his wife asks if he wants more cookies.

On Friday night, track representatives will be in front of the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park. Next Wednesday, Golden Gate will be handing out cookies at the Oakland Athletics game at the Oakland Coliseum; Thursday at Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley; and Friday at 12th and Broadway in Alameda.