08/24/2011 1:04PM

Golden Gate Fields: Houle, Galvin collect first wins as trainers


Natalie Houle, 30, and Brendan Galvin, 45, have something in common. Both trainers recorded their first official victories over the opening weekend at Golden Gate Fields.

Houle got things going on opening day last Friday when Hey Maria rallied for a victory in a $6,250 claiming sprint at six furlongs.
Galvin’s initial victory came Sunday when Chattel House won a photo over Siberian Song in a $20,000 maiden claimer at one mile on the turf.

Cristobal Herrera rode both winners.

Houle, who grew up in Arcadia, Calif., remembers her father taking her and her sister to Santa Anita when they were little to watch morning workouts.

“I talked him into getting me horseback riding lessons,” said Houle, who competed with show horses in her youth but always had the dream of being associated with Thoroughbreds.

She moved to Pennsylvania in 2002 and worked at Penn National for trainers Tim Shea, Tim Kreiser, and Sam Webb. Webb claimed Coushatta for her, and she was hooked for good. Coushatta won 3 of 6 starts under Houle’s ownership, but developed a case of colic so she did not bring him with her when she returned to California.

She met Warren Williamson, who gave her Latin Minutemaiden. Williamson is the owner of Hey Maria. Latin Minutemaiden has a second and a third with Houle as her owner/trainer.

Hey Maria’s victory came in Houle’s fifth start as a trainer.

Houle, who also has a full-time job as a bartender, said her boyfriend, former jockey Carlos Nieto, who won races for her aboard Coushatta, helps her with training and got Herrera to ride for her.

Galvin, who had a brief career as a jockey in England and his native Ireland as a teenager, came to the United States at age 21, migrating to the Bay Area.

He took out his trainer’s license last month but still exercises horses for Steve Specht and Jedd Josephson. He said he was getting two more horses to train this week.

Chattel House was his first starter, finishing seventh in a straight maiden race at Santa Rosa before winning the maiden claimer for Galvin and owner and long-time friend and countryman Pat O’Sullivan.

Marathon win a huge thrill

The Humboldt County Marathon is far more than a $12,500 starter handicap. The 1 5/8-mile race, where runners cross the finish line four times, gives owners almost the feeling of winning a Grade 1 race.

Allen Aldrich claimed Steel Blue on Aug. 3 in Santa Rosa expressly to win the Humboldt Counthy Marathon, and when the 5-year-old gelding re-rallied to defeat Baron’s Gold after being passed in the stretch, Aldrich said, “This has to be one of my biggest thrills ever in racing.”

This is from a former trainer and jockey agent who has been in racing for more than 30 years and has been coming to Ferndale for a quarter century. Aldrich is also part owner of multiple stakes-placed Mighty Monsoon, who is being pointed to the Del Mar Futurity.

Jockey Barrington Harvey won the Marathon for the second straight year.

“That was as game an effort by a horse I have ever ridden,” he said of Steel Blue.

Like father, like daughter

Steel Blue wasn’t Aldrich’s only key claim prior to Ferndale. He also claimed San Darino and was rewarded with victories on Aug. 17 and 21 by the 5-year-old gelding. Two wins in five days wasn’t the real story, though.

April Boag was aboard for both victories, which extended San Darino’s winning streak to five straight. The first three came at Los Alamitos under April’s father, Gary.

Boag didn’t have time to contact her father for instructions when she took the call on San Darino when listed rider David Essman was injured in the starting gate two races earlier.

Boag guided San Darino to a wire-to-wire victory and repeated on closing day Sunday.

“I sent my dad a message after the race, and he replied that he was glad I kept the record intact,” Boag said. “I didn’t talk to him before the race, but he’s a man of few words anyway.”

Russell dominates at Ferndale

Jockey Chris Russell was so dominant at Ferndale that he clinched the riding title with a four-win day on Saturday, one day before the meeting ended. He ended the eight-day meet with 15 winners.

He did it despite riding with a broken toe sustained when a mount banged the starting gate coming out. Russell simply taped the toe and limped to and from assignments most of the meeting.

* Trainer Ramon Pulido won his second straight Ferndale title, edging Quinn Howey, 53 points to 47 points. Oviedo and Santiago Rodriguez each had five Thoroughbred winners, the most of any trainers.