12/13/2011 12:43PM

Golden Gate: Strong day turns sour for Morey after Lucky Culprit's injury

Vassar Photography
Russian Greek (right) holds off Marshal Marini to win Saturday’s Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

Saturday had the earmarks of a memorable day for trainer Billy Morey.

He won the first race at Golden Gate Fields with odds-on favorite Lord’s Minister in a one-mile maiden turf race. He won the second race, a $4,000 claimer at five furlongs, with favored Compromising Txt.

Then he saddled favorite Lucky Culprit in the $100,000 Gold Rush Stakes.

The day went sour 30 seconds after the starting gate opened as jockey Russell Baze pulled up Lucky Culprit, and the 2-year-old gelding had to be vanned off.

A sheath protecting a tendon in his left hind leg had become displaced, leaving the tendon loose.

"There are a million ways for a horse to get hurt, but you don’t think of this one," Morey said.

Morey said the injury was not life-threatening, but that Lucky Culprit’s racing career probably is over.

"The racing prognosis is pretty slim," he said. "We’ve done some research since the injury, and some horses have come back. All we can do now is give him rest."

Baze said the injury happened when Lucky Culprit was knocked sideways on the turn.

Lucky Culprit, a son of Lucky Pulpit out of the Lear Fan mare With Some Luck, ran second in his debut and scored an impressive victory in his second start.

Although Morey lost a top 2-year-old last weekend, his best 3-year-old of this year made progress toward his return.

On Sunday, Positive Response had his first recorded work since May 30, going three furlongs in 36.80 seconds. Morey said Positive Response had put in a couple of two-furlong drills, but they were not recorded.

Positive Response won the California Derby and the John Battaglia Memorial this year.

Russian Greek eyes Calif. Derby

Russian Greek rallied from last along the rail in the one-mile Gold Rush to edge Marshal Marini by a neck. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the $100,000 California Derby here Jan. 14 was likely the next start for Russian Greek.

A son of Giant’s Causeway, Russian Greek won his debut at Santa Rosa on July 30 and then finished fifth in the Golden Nugget on Nov. 12. The Gold Rush was his first start at two turns.

“We thought when we got him stretched out he’d be better,” Hollendorfer said. “He ran very well and is bred very well.”

Sweetly Peppered on best surface

Saturday’s $75,000 Pacific Heights for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf is the final stakes of 2011 at Golden Gate Fields. Expected to run are Antares World, Bleach Blonde, Halo Dolly, Sweetly Peppered, and Two Thirds Victory.

For Sweetly Peppered, the Pacific Heights is a chance to run in a stakes on her favorite surface. Sweetly Peppered has 4 wins and 4 seconds in 10 turf starts and is especially fond of the grass at Golden Gate. She comes off a victory in an optional claimer on the turf here. She also won two allowance races earlier this year on the surface.

Sweetly Peppered has made two stakes starts, both on dirt, finishing eighth in the Alameda County Fillies and Mares on her home track at Pleasanton in June and sixth in the California State Fair Sprint in Sacramento in July.

“She just seems to race better on the turf,” said Alex Paszkeicz, owner, trainer, and breeder of Sweetly Peppered. “She doesn’t even like racing on her home track.”

Sweetly Peppered is usually on or within a length of the lead in her races, and Paszkeicz was encouraged by her last-out win because she rated early before taking over in the stretch. Sweetly Peppered was as far as three lengths back early in the race.

“Speed is always good, but sometimes horses use up all their oxygen and have a tough time recovering,” said Paszkeicz, a former track coach who understands oxygen debt.

Cedillo riding strong on Sundays

The Golden Gate fall meeting concludes Sunday before racing resumes for the long winter-spring meet on Dec. 26.

Fans attending on closing day may want to look closely at horses being ridden by Abel Cedillo.

Cedillo, who entered Thursday fifth in the jockey standings, has ridden three winners on each of the past two Sundays.

Last Sunday, he won the first three races on the card with Peppered Catnip ($3), Sizzling Gold ($5), and Paprika Red ($7.40). Paszkeicz trains Paprika Red and Peppered Catnip, a full sister to Sweetly Peppered.

Sunday also will be Kevin Krigger’s final day at Golden Gate Fields for a while. Krigger, who won four straight stakes earlier in the meet and ranks second to Baze in the jockey standings, is planning to ride at Santa Anita beginning Dec. 26.