05/10/2011 2:33PM

Golden Gate Fields: Prep race 1-2-3 finishers returning for Alcatraz

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Saturday’s $75,000 Alcatraz at 1 1/16 miles on the turf is the last 3-year-old stakes of the Golden Gate Fields meeting and is a natural spot for the top three finishers of an April 17 prep race here. Life Is a Rock, Northern Causeway, and Duke of Doom finished within a half-length of each other in that one-mile turf race and are signed up to meet again Saturday.

Also expected to run are Cody Peak, who like Life Is a Rock is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer; Offlee Wild Boys, who had the lead in the stretch of the $150,000 Snow Chief at Hollywood Park in his last start; and Major Art, a Southern California invader.

Life Is a Rock got up by a nose to nip Northern Causeway on April 17. Both were making their turf debuts. Duke of Doom, the 6-5 favorite that day, was another half-length back in third.

Northern Causeway set the pace and battled head-to-head with three rivals from the quarter pole home. Trainer Len Kasmerski says Northern Causeway is an improving horse.

“Every time we’ve run the horse, he’s improved,” Kasmerski said. “He’s getting better all the time. He’s a big horse with a nice, big stride and good attitude.”

As a son of Giant’s Causeway, Northern Causeway was expected to handle the turf, and Kasmerski was relieved to see the colt run to his breeding.

“He handled it well,” he said.

Northern Causeway had never been on the lead before in a race, but jockey Julien Couton sensed a slow pace and sent him to the front.

“I didn’t tell him how to ride, but I was happy to see him do that,” Kasmerski said.

As for Duke of Doom, the beaten favorite April 17, he was making his second start after being purchased earlier this year by trainer Billy Morey for Terry English and Tom Hocking. The Repent colt has made all five of his starts on turf, winning his debut for a $32,000 tag at Calder and then running second in a pair of $50,000 claimers at Gulfstream. He won a starter allowance at Golden Gate in April in his first start for Morey, who said he had the Alcatraz in mind when he purchased Duke of Doom and then ran him April 17.

“He was really close to those other horses, and I think they are really good,” he said.

Morey well acquainted with Animal Kingdom

Morey ran into Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom when he sent out Positive Response to an eighth-place finish in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway, so he was well aware of the colt’s ability.

When asked how much he bet on Animal Kingdom in the Derby, Morey joked, “not enough.”

“He was very impressive in the Spiral Stakes, and he seemed pretty impressive in his workouts at Churchill before the Derby,” Morey said.

Morey had considered running Positive Response in the Alcatraz but opted instead to freshen him at Golden Gate Fields. He has not had an official work since the March 26 Spiral.

“My first thought was the Alcatraz, but he’d run in five stakes in three and a half months,” Morey said. “We decided to freshen him and let him have a good summer.”

◗ Jockey Kevin Krigger won three races Saturday at Golden Gate and picked up two more wins Sunday to move into third place in the jockey standings with 52 victories, behind Russell Baze (125) and Francisco Duran (56). Frank Alvarado (50) is fourth. The trainer’s race finds Hollendorfer in the lead with 68 victories and Steve Sherman second with 61.

◗ The Wonder Bread 5 will provide music at Sunday’s Dollar Day promotion. The usual parking, admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, and soda are all offered for $1.