04/10/2012 10:44AM

Golden Gate: San Francisco Mile prep on Thursday lures Positive Response, Awesome Gem

Vassar Photography
Positive Response makes his turf debut in a Golden Gate allowance race on Thursday.

It looks like Positive Response and Awesome Gem will have a chance to prep for the Grade 3, $150,000 San Francisco Mile after all.

A one-mile allowance race that would have served the purpose was offered for last Saturday but didn’t fill. But racing secretary David Jerkens and his staff worked hard to get enough horses to run in a simlar race on Thursday’s card, 16 days before the April 28 San Francisco Mile, and now Awesome Gem, Positive Response and three others have a chance to go one mile on the turf.

The race will be the first try on turf for the 4-year-old Positive Response, who last year won the California Derby on the Golden Gate Tapeta and the John Battaglia Memorial on the Polytrack at Turfway Park.

“I’m excited to run him,” said trainer Billy Morey, who wants to see how Positive Response handles grass before deciding whether to run him in the San Francisco Mile

There is a good chance of rain in the Bay Area on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If the race were switched to the main track, it would give Positive Response a better chance to win, but wouldn’t answer the turf question, Morey said.

“I think he’ll run fine on the turf, although he’s not royally bred for it,” Morey said. “It would be nice to try, though.”

Positive Response is by Pomeroy, a sprint specialist who tried the turf only once in his life and did not hit the board. His offspring are only 2 for 40 on turf and 0 for 23 in their turf debuts. Positive Response’s dam, Lisa’s Approval, scored 3 of her 6 victories on turf, but she’s had only one runner try turf before and that one did little on it.

Morey is happy with the condition of Positive Response, who has made two starts this year. He tired to fifth place in his first start after spending nearly one year on the sidelines and then was a strong second to Live Sundays in a fast race in start No. 2 on March 18. Both races came at one mile on the Tapeta.

“He ran well, but the winner ran a tremendous race,” said Morey. “He’s come back and worked really well since then.”

As for the 9-year-old Awesome Gem, this marks the second year in a row that trainer Craig Dollase has sent him north for his first start of the year. He ran in a similar race on April 2 last year, finishing third.

The race last year was a prep for the $1 million Charles Town Classic. Awesome Gem finished sixth in that race. This year, Dollase said he wants to try the San Francisco Mile, which is closer to the gelding’s Santa Anita base.

“We’re going to be a little more conservative this year and not ship him around so much,” said Dollase.

Awesome Gem races at eight different tracks last year. Along the way, he won the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs and Lone Star Park Handicap, both Grade 3 races, and ran second in the Grade 1 Goodwood at Santa Anita and Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. Awesome Gem, who has $2,738,270 in lifetime earnings, raked in $458,588 last year.

Awesome Gem, by Awesome Again, has raced 11 times on turf, with 1 win, 4 seconds, and 1 third.

Dollase said Awesome Gem is using the Thursday race as a launch point to the season.

“II think I’ve got him ready, but I don’t know if he’s fully cranked,” Dollase said. “Hopefully, this is a steppingstone to bigger and better things.”

This will be Awesome Gem’s fourth race at Golden Gate Fields. He was second by a length to Delightful Kiss in the Grade 3 All American in 2008, the third nose in a photo to Autism Awareness and Bold Chieftain in the Grade 3 Berkeley in 2009, and then third in last year’s allowance prep.