05/31/2012 11:27AM

Golden Gate: Oh Molly Brannigan will have to be caught in Campanile

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ALBANY, Calif. – Trainer Andy Mathis is aware there could be a contentious pace in the $100,000 Campanile on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields, but he’s willing to throw down a challenge to his six rivals on behalf of his starter in the one-mile turf race, Oh Molly Brannigan.

“We’re going for the lead,” Mathis said, adding he was going to tell jockey Juan Hernandez “to go for it until you get it.”

“I’d rather go 46 and not win than back off another horse and not win,” Mathis said.

Oh Molly Brannigan won three straight mile races in wire-to-wire style – a maiden claimer, a starter allowance, and an optional claimer – and then set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Alcatraz on the Golden Gate turf before finishing second in that open race to Stormy Lucy. Even though the Campanile is a step down, being for 3-year-old California-bred fillies, is committing Oh Molly Brannigan to the lead a death wish?

Actually, the strategy makes sense to Mathis.

“The two times she’s gotten behind horses, she’s been beaten by more than 20 lengths,” he said. “Why take her out of her game?

“Her running style is unique. She doesn’t run off. She relaxes when she gets in front, but in her races she has withstood some challenges. It’s not like she got lucky. She fought others off.”

The Southern California imports Best Present Ever and Warren’s Amber will likely provide the biggest challenges with their stalking styles.

Warren’s Amber is the only stakes winner in the field. She won the Evening Jewel, a sprint for California-breds, in April at Santa Anita and came back to run fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Melair over the Hollywood Park Cushion Track, a race won by Grade 1 winner Willa B Awesome. In her only turf race, Warren’s Amber ran third in a starter allowance at Santa Anita in February.

Best Present Ever has won two straight, both over California-breds – a maiden sprint on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita and a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer at Hollywood Park.

Several of her rivals seem capable of challenging Oh Molly Brannigan for the early lead.

Mohanna Breeze just won a maiden race going a mile on the turf in wire-to-wire style with faster interior fractions than Oh Molly Brannigan has shown. Billie’s Bling has stalked the pace in sprints and stretches out for the first time, although trainer Michael Lenzini says she will be asked to sit in a stalking position.

Still, Mathis thinks Oh Molly Brannigan is the speed of the speed in the Campanile.

“There’s quick in maiden races and quick in stakes, but those are different types of speed,” Mathis said.

“If someone wants to go with her, they’ll have to go fast.”

Carolina Grande and Jewel Seeker, who was sixth in the Golden Poppy, round out the field.