09/14/2011 1:06PM

Golden Gate: Hartman swapping horses for cards


Golden Gate Fields general manager Robert Hartman, who said last month that he would leave his position after the current meet ends Oct. 2, has been named chief executive officer of the American Contract Bridge League.

Hartman, who is a bridge life master, has served as Golden Gate’s general manager for six years. Prior to that, he was an associate athletic director at the University of California.

“It was more the opportunity to take on new challenges,” Hartman said of his decision to leave.

Joe Morris will serve as interim general manager for the fall meeting that begins Oct. 20.

During Hartman’s tenure, Golden Gate Fields installed a Tapeta main track. Under Hartman’s leadership, the track also instituted a popular Dollar Day Sunday program in which parking, admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, and soda could all be purchased for $1.

Hartman praised Golden Gate Fields owner Frank Stronach.

“Frank Stronach is committed to racing,” he said. “Our Tapeta racing surface is one of the best in the state. In marketing, Frank has allowed me to spend significant money, which is one of the reasons for the success of Dollar Day Sundays.”

Hartman said attendance has remained reasonably steady, but declining handle has hurt the track.

“But that is not just a Northern California issue,” he said. “It’s a statewide issue.”

Hartman concedes that the racing industry is in trouble.

“Improving the product is critical in the next few years,” he said. “The foal crop continues to decline. We have to spark the breeding industry.”

Because of the low horse population, the current Golden Gate meet is running on a three-day-a-week basis.

“That has helped grow our field size,” Hartman said, although purses for the meet have been lowered and no stakes were scheduled.

The current Golden Gate meet has averaged 7.4 starters per race.

All American tops stakes schedule

Golden Gate Fields will offer seven stakes worth $475,000, including the Grade 3 All American, at its fall meeting. The $100,000 All American is carded at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds and up on Nov. 25.

The stakes schedule is similar to the 2010 schedule, including six-furlong and one-mile races for 2-year-old fillies (Golden Gate Debutante on Nov. 5 and Corte Madera on Dec. 3) and 2-year-old males (Golden Nugget on Nov. 12 and Gold Rush on Dec. 10).

“That worked really well,” Hartman said of the series to prepare juveniles for their 3-year-old campaigns. “A number of trainers seemed to go out and get better 2-year-olds with the program.”

Also scheduled is the six-furlong Oakland, which will be the only sprint stakes held for older runners in 2011 at Golden Gate Fields. The $50,000 Oakland begins the stakes season Oct. 22.

The final stakes is the $75,000 Pacific Heights at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for Cal-bred fillies and mares. Golden Gate Fields did not offer an open stakes races for older fillies and mares in 2011.

The track did offer high-class allowance races substituting for stakes during the year.

Last Saturday, the Chuck Jenda-trained Summers Peace beat three other stakes winners in winning a one-mile turf allowance race by 3 1/4 lengths over stakes-placed Bleach Blonde.

The track has another special allowance Friday, with a field of five that includes graded stakes-winning millionaire Bold Chieftain, graded stakes winner Our Nautique, stakes winners Goggles McCoy and Posse Power, and graded stakes-placed Honour the Deputy.

For all of the runners, the race is a chance to maintain some semblance of sharpness in the absence of a stakes for the division.

“It’s pretty discouraging,” said Bill Morey Jr., trainer, owner, and breeder of Bold Chieftain. “You need stakes races. If you don’t have a program for better horses, it can hurt the overall program.”

Trainer Steve Sherman, who said Goggles McCoy had a slight temperature over the weekend but would run if he recovered quickly, still has questions about his star. He wants to see the son of In Excess run on the turf again after winning the Jess Jackson on a disqualification in his turf debut. And he wants to see if the 4-year-old gelding can relax and get a mile.

Sherman also is concerned about the lack of stakes opportunities. “You’ll see a number of good horses leave,” he said.

Trio of jockey receive suspensions

Three jockeys drew days from the stewards last week.

Kevin Krigger was hit twice and will serve back-to-back three-day suspensions beginning Saturday. The first set of days (Sept. 17, 18, 23) was for his ride on Forty Cts in the fifth race Sept. 5. The second set (Sept. 24, 25, 30) was for his ride aboard Pali Chief in the fourth race Sept. 9. He was cited for “failure to maintain a straight course in the stretch and causing interference” for both infractions.

William Antongeorgi III will miss Sept. 18, 23, and 24 for the same infraction for his ride on Crazy Thinking in eighth race Sept. 9, when he was disqualified to second after dead-heating for the victory.

Inoel Beato also will sit out Sept. 18, 23, and 24 for the same infraction after his ride aboard Savanna Wild Cat in the fourth race Sept. 10.