11/15/2011 2:37PM

Golden Gate Fields: Jerkens takes over as racing secretary with mixed feelings


David Jerkens took over as the Golden Gate Fields racing secretary over the weekend with a mixture of excitement and regret. The assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator, Jerkens replaced Sean Greely, who was dismissed by track general manager Joe Morris as part of what he called a “payroll cut.”

Greely was named the Golden Gate Fields racing secretary in October 2004, and he brought Jerkens out from New York to serve as his assistant. Jerkens had been working in the New York Racing Association’s racing office.

While Jerkens said he is “thrilled about the opportunity,” he also feels funny about replacing a person who has taught him so much over the past seven years.

“Sean prepared me for this job,” said Jerkens, who added that Greely encouraged him to accept the position.

Jerkens is the grandson of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. His father, Steven, and uncle, James, also are trainers.

Among the problems Jerkens has inherited is the diminishing number of horses and owners in Northern California as well as across the nation. Perhaps more than at most tracks, a small bloc of trainers dominates the entries and standings at Golden Gate Fields.

The final condition book for the current meet is already written, although Jerkens will write the extra races. The fall meet ends Dec. 18, and Jerkens will write the condition books for the winter-spring meet, which opens Dec. 26.

Jerkens said he and racing office personnel will be as “accessible as possible for horsemen.” He said he also will try to recruit more horses to base here, including those from Southern California trainers and owners.

Jerkens said he intends to schedule more stakes races, which he hopes will draw more attention to the Golden Gate Fields.

Passing Game to stick with sprints for now

Passing Game, at 39-1 the longest shot in the field of nine runners, was a stretch-running winner of Saturday’s $62,540 Golden Nugget at six furlongs. Despite the appearance that Passing Game could get two turns, trainer Gary Sherlock said he doesn’t intend to run the Game Plan colt in the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes here Dec. 10.

“Right now, we’re not thinking of stretching him out,” he said.

Although Passing Game won the Golden Nugget by only a head, jockey Kevin Krigger said he had dead aim on leader Chips All In.

“It felt a lot easier than it looked on the replay,” Krigger said.

Passing Game is unbeaten in two starts. He won his debut May 15 at Hollywood Park, paying $43.60. He paid $80.60 on Saturday.

“It’s funny, he’s paid a lot of money both times,” said Sherlock, who hinted that he and owners Charles and Carol Bernhardt, Stan Chambers, and William MacNeil had cashed a few tickets on him.

A minor injury forced Passing Game to miss a couple of races before the Golden Nugget, Sherlock said.

“We were going to run him at Del Mar in their Cal-bred 2-year-old races, but when he got down to Del Mar, he got kicked in the hind leg, and we blew the whole meet,” he said. “Two races didn’t fill at Santa Anita, so we looked at this race.”

Trainer Jeff Mullins is looking for a turf race for Chips All In. Mullins also trains the beaten Golden Nugget favorite, Coach Sickie, who finished fourth. Coach Sickie didn’t like the synthetic surface at all, according to jockey Alonso Quinonez.

Marshall Marini finished well to be third, and trainer Cliff Delima said the colt will likely come back in the Gold Rush. Marshal Marini ran second in the 1 1/16-mile Charlie Palmer Futurity at Fresno in his previous start.

◗ Golden Gate Fields will hold a canned food drive Saturday for the Bear Pantry on the nearby University of California campus. The Bear Pantry helps student families with dependent children. Fans will receive one clubhouse pass for each canned food item donated, with a limit of 10 passes per person.