10/20/2011 12:01PM

Golden Gate: Shudacudawudya and Duran team up again in Oakland

Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
The ultra-fast gray Shudacudawudya and jockey Francisco Duran have been together since Day 1.

Jockey Francisco Duran was impressed when he worked Shudacudawudya as a 2-year-old for trainer Lloyd Mason before the colt’s first race.

“I got on him before he ran, and I asked Lloyd if he would keep me on him,” said Duran. “I really liked the way he was going, and I loved riding him. I’m glad Lloyd gave me a chance.”

Duran rode Shudacudawudya to a five-length victory in his debut and has been aboard for the colt’s subsequent nine starts. Duran will guide Shudacudawudya, now 4, once again against seven rivals in Saturday’s $50,000-added Oakland Stakes at six furlongs over the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta.

Shudacudawudya, who has never finished off the board sprinting, will seek his first stakes victory since winning the Golden Nugget here as a 2-year-old.

Shudacudawudya defeated four of his Saturday rivals when he scored a career-high 100 Beyer with a dominating four-length victory in a Sept. 25 allowance race here in his first start in seven months. Duran gave the Marino Marini gelding a perfect ride that day, according to Mason.

Shudacudawudya broke sharply but allowed the multiple stakes winner Tribesman to take the lead. He moved out on the turn, split rivals as he moved into contention, and pulled away from Tribesman in the lane. Our Minesweeper, the defending Oakland champion, ran third in that race, with Skipshot, who won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes in 2010, fourth. Both are back for the Oakland.

“I knew Tribesman was the one to beat, and when I saw Tribesman go, I just eased back,” said Duran. “There was a hole at the quarter pole so I switched outside. I had confidence then but I waited a little more, and when I was next to Tribesman I asked him.”

Duran says he always confident when he gets aboard Shudacudawudya.

“I get excited when I get on him, and he seems to know me,” Duran said. “It makes it easier. We know each other. We have confidence in each other and are comfortable with each other. The more I know him, the more confidence I have in him.”

But on Saturday Shudacudawudya and Duran are facing a tough challenge.

Tribesman should be tighter than in the Sept. 25 race, which was his first start in two months and only his second start in 16 months. Skipshot will be making his second start after a 13-month layoff.

New faces Hexbreaker and Starboardlights are going in good form. Quick Enough is a turf stakes winner and has a graded stakes placing. Sourdough Sam, Shudacudawudya’s archrival as a 2-year-old, is also running.

As far as race strategy goes, it will probably be up to Duran whether Shudacudawudya sets the pace or sits off it.

“Lloyd and I will talk a little bit,” said Duran. “I want his instructions, but then he usually tells to do what I want.”

That’s been a good strategy thus far.