02/25/2014 2:11PM

Golden Gate Fields: Hotaling Heart, named for disabled Marine, gives connections special win

Vassar Photography
Marine Cpl. Josh Hotaling designed the silks worn by Hotaling Heart’s jockey, Isaias D. Enriquez, during the horse's maiden win Saturday.

Thoroughbred breeder and owner Bob Bone is known for his love of horse racing and his aggressive approach to the sport. What might not be as well known is his concern for military veterans, but the two came together at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, when Hotaling Heart won her debut in an $8,000 maiden claimer.

“That’s absolutely one of the most special wins in my career,” Bone said. “It’s going to be my favorite win this year.”

That’s pretty amazing for an owner whose runners win 27 percent of their races, but Hotaling Heart is special. She’s named after Marine Cpl. Josh Hotaling, who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. Hotaling owns the filly with Bone.

A homebred, Hotaling Heart is by Point Given out of Lookn Mighty Fine, who won two stakes and earned $300,851. Lookn Mighty Fine has been a productive dam. Hotaling Heart is her fifth foal to race, and the first four were all multiple winners. Hotaling Heart is a full sister to the stakes-placed Lookn Mighty Fast, who has 11 career wins and $298,000 in earnings, and Lookn Even Finer, who won eight times and earned $138,000.

Bone, from Sacramento, Calif., was introduced to Hotaling by jockeys’ agent and former trainer Wayne McDonnell.

“Wayne McDonnell’s nephew is a Marine, and he introduced me to him and Josh,” Bone said. “His nephew and Josh guarded the president at Camp David. I met him after Josh had been injured in 2011.”

Hotaling, a Sacramento native who grew up in nearby Roseville, and Bone hit it off immediately – and not just because of the geographical connection.

“He loved the races,” Bone said. “He’s the most courageous young man I know. I’d pick him up at the Balboa Medical Center, and even if he’d had surgery the night before, he’d go to the races. I brought him to the Kentucky Derby with me, and he was in the winner’s circle with Doug O’Neill [and I’ll Have Another in 2012].”

Bone has a box at Del Mar and always sought out Marines to sit with him. He started a military-appreciation day at Del Mar nine years ago and continues to support veterans, especially Marines injured in combat.

When he bred Hotaling Heart, Bone said he’d wanted to do something for his friend and named the filly after him, although he said when horses are named after people, “They almost never do much.”

Hotaling got involved with the filly and even designed his own silks, which have “USMC” for “U.S. Marine Corps.” on the front and the image of two combat-duty Marines on the back.

Hotaling Heart was entered for a race several weeks ago, and Hotaling and his family planned to attend. The filly’s trainer, Bill Patterson, convinced Bone that the filly wasn’t quite ready for her debut, which got postponed to Saturday.

Hotaling missed seeing the race live because he was in Puerto Rico teaching injured Marines how to dive, but Bone got a tape of the race, including track announcer Michael Wrona’s poignant relaying of the filly’s background as the field approached the starting gate.

Hotaling Heart was one of four first-time starters in the field of seven and was the third choice at 5-2 in the five-furlong race. She broke well from her outside post and sat just off the pace. She made a four-wide move into the stretch and opened a 1 1/2-length lead over Tsarina Haven. That rival finished well, but Hotaling Heart dug in and won by a neck in 58.84 seconds.

Patterson wasn’t surprised by the victory.

“It wasn’t like we knew we had a $20,000 filly and were running her for $8,000 just to get her picture taken,” he said. “I just knew she seems to like the game, and she’s competitive. We put her where we thought she’d be competitive, and we’ll continue to do that. I don’t know where she’ll level out, but I know she’ll be competitive.”

Patterson said he knew Bone wanted a win for Hotaling, whose story affected everyone in the barn. Patterson’s brother, Dennis, had found a newspaper article on Hotaling that he mounted in the barn office, which was how everyone in the barn learned about the Marine the filly was named after.

Patterson was involved with big wins by Eclipse Award winner Brown Bess as an assistant to Chuck Jenda, but he said Saturday’s race was especially memorable.

“This was a race you want to win,” he said. “Outside of winning the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap with Run It for my dad when he was in the hospital, this race probably means the most to me.”

Win streaks

Two winning streaks were snapped and one extended last weekend.

On Friday, Play Misty for Us saw her five-race winning streak end when she took a double jump up the claiming ladder and ran fourth behind favored Suances Flower in a one-mile race for a $6,250 tag. All five of her wins had come at a mile.

On Sunday, Happybirthdaybaby extended her winning streak to three as she won her second straight $62,500 optional claimer. The 6-5 favorite won the 1 1/16-mile race by 1 1/4 lengths while running for a tag after winning the allowance condition last time.

Also on Sunday, G.G. Ryder, who had won a maiden race and a starter allowance in his previous two starts, finished third at 3-5 when stretching out to a mile in a $50,000 optional claimer.