06/04/2013 1:54PM

Golden Gate notes: Iron mare Two Thirds Victory to make start No. 85

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Surfcup's victory in the Snow Chief will make him a heavy favorite in the Silky Sullivan on Sunday.

The Grande Dame of Northern California racing will make start No. 85 in Friday’s first race at Golden Gate Fields, a $20,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Two Thirds Victory, an 8-year-old mare by Peteski’s Charm, has 10 wins, 18 seconds, and 10 thirds while earning $276,835. She ran nine times as a 2-year-old, and with the exception of 2009 when she went to the sidelines for 14 months because of a broken left ankle, she has double-digit starts in every year. Friday’s start is her eighth of this year.

“She’s the smartest horse I’ve ever known,” says trainer Frances Henderson.

Henderson, 83, got her first horse when she was 10 and was at the track soaking up knowledge from veteran trainers in Washington when she was a teenager. Needless to say, Henderson considers herself an old-school trainer.

And Two Thirds Victory is an old-school horse in an era when 30 starts is unusual. (The horse on Friday’s card with the second-most starts, Campeenya, has 47, and also is trained by Henderson.)

Henderson’s lone regret is that Two Thirds Victory is not stakes-placed, although she does have a pair of fourth-place finishes in stakes.

Henderson says the mare is “very light-mouthed.” Henderson’s typical instructions to the jockey are to let her break and place herself because she doesn’t like jockeys pulling on her.

“I’ve never had a horse that was so smart,” Henderson said. “She understands pace and rates herself.

“She usually stalks, but she knows if she’s going too fast and will drop back. I tell jockeys to take a long hold on the reins and don’t mess with her.”

Two Thirds Victory suffered a broken ankle in January 2009. Owner-breeder George Kypros – whose son Paul Kypros is Henderson’s No. 1 client – considered sending her for surgery and also considered retiring her.

Henderson asked Kypros to let her keep Two Thirds Victory at the track where she used a magnetic boot daily to help the healing process. Though it took 14 months to get Two Thirds Victory back to the track, the ankle has been fine ever since.

Henderson says she thinks most horses today are overtrained.

“I’ll always walk a horse for four days after a race before I let them jog,” she said. “I don’t run them every day. I take them out every other day, and they’ll usually go easily from the five-sixteenths to the half-mile pole and then go back to the wire using a two-minute lick.”

Silky Sullivan standout

Four Northern California-based runners – the only locals nominated – are expected to run in Sunday’s $100,000 Silky Sullivan for 3-year-old California-breds at one mile on the turf. They are Havoc, Heat Streaker, Tebows Big Play, and Unusual Meeting.

But all eyes will be on the Southern California-based favorite. Trainer Bob Baffert said he intends to run Surfcup, a two-time winner on turf and winner of the $300,000 Snow Chief at Betfair Hollywood Park in his last start on April 27.

Considering that all the Northern California runners are still eligible for the first allowance level and that Unusual Meeting is still a maiden, Surfcup, who will be ridden by Russell Baze, looks like an odds-on possibility.

Belmont Stakes buzz

Golden Gate Fields will host its Belmont Stakes Wine Festival from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday on the track level next to the winner’s circle. Tickets cost $30, including general admission to the track.

Fifteen samples of wine as well as a sampling of domestic cheeses, fruits, and other food are available, and patrons will receive a souvenir wine glass. Glasses of wine also will be sold.

Tickets for the event are available through the track website at www.goldengatefields.com.

Gates on Saturday will open at 9 a.m., with first post for live racing at 11:45 a.m.