03/01/2011 2:38PM

Hallelujah Trail near-perfect at Golden Gate


Her name is Hallelujah Trail, but she’s known as the Queen of Golden Gate Fields.

As if there were any doubt, she proved her superiority in a $50,000 optional claimer Sunday, winning the six-furlong sprint by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:09.89. The victory was her seventh in eight starts at Golden Gate Fields, where she won her maiden. She has won the last six times she has raced over the Golden Gate Tapeta.

All those victories have come sprinting, and trainer Blaine Wright says that he will “toy with the idea of two turns” for her next start.

“It’s getting tough to run her here,” said Wright, who ran her for the $50,000 tag on Sunday. Although it will cost him a dinner for owner John Maryanski, Wright is relieved he lost the private bet that his star would be claimed.

Wright said Hallelujah Trail may try a route here if a classified allowance sprint doesn’t come up. He said that he is looking at the $50,000 Hastings Handicap over the dirt at Emerald Downs on May 15 for Hallelujah Trail, a 5-year-old Gilded Time mare, and that he also would be looking at condition books at Keeneland and Presque Isle Downs. Keeneland has a Polytrack surface and Presque Isle has a Tapeta surface like Golden Gate.

Maryanski purchased Hallelujah Trail in early 2010 after her third straight victory here on Dec. 28, 2009.

“The owner planned to retire his old mare Gadget Queen,” said Wright.

They hoped Hallelujah Trail would eventually be a replacement.

Wright sent Hallelujah Trail to Santa Anita with Jerry Hollendorfer, where she ran second in an allowance race and fourth in the Grade 3 Las Flores, losing by a length after setting the pace to the lane. At Emerald Downs, she was the runner-up in a pair of stakes races. After disappointing tries in a comeback race at Fresno and stakes try at Hollywood Park, Hallelujah Trail returned to her favorite track in December and has reeled off three straight wins sandwiched around at sixth-place finish in a Santa Anita stakes down the hillside turf course two starts ago.

One year after the purchase of Hallelujah Trail, Gadget Queen has now been retired following a third-place finish at Golden Gate on Feb. 10. A multiple-stakes-winning Flying With Eagles mare, Gadget Queen will be sent to Harbor the Gold, a hot young sire based in Oregon. The plan for the following year, Wright said, is to send her to Kentucky for her second breeding and return her to California where her foal would be a California-bred.

Back to reality for Formula Gold

Trainer Lloyd Mason knew he was asking a lot of Formula Gold when he entered the gelding in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby off a maiden victory, but he did it because he termed it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Formula Gold stalked the pace for the opening half-mile before fading on the second turn and finishing fifth, and he earned $4,000 for owner Brett Mason, the son of the trainer.

“He wasn’t good enough for that race,” said Lloyd Mason, who believes Formula Gold, a son of Formal Gold, will run better Thursday when he runs in a first-level allowance race at Golden Gate Fields.

Formula Gold drew the outside post in a field of six that includes the stakes winner El Gaucho; recent winners Big Son of a Gun and Offlee Wild Boys; Life Is a Rock; and Northern Causeway.

Mason said Formula Gold came out of the El Camino Real in good shape, both mentally and physically.

“You can get a horse discouraged if they get beat when they’re trying hard,” Mason said. “I don’t think that will be the case with him. He came back fine, and he still has a confident bounce around the barn.”

Formula Gold’s maiden win came at Thursday’s one-mile distance.

◗ Two of the entrants in the opener on Friday’s card, a maiden race for 3-year-old fillies, are related to Kentucky Derby winners. Pitted against each other will be Royals’s Lass, a daughter of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, and Chow Mien, a half-sister to 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown.

◗ Russell Baze was inducted into the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame in Oakland on Friday evening. Baze rode three straight winners – Sky High Hatty (sixth race), My Gal Candy (seventh), and Yvett’s Pride (eighth) – before the induction ceremony.

Basketball great Rick Barry, who was also inducted, said that he was envious of Baze because “he is still able to compete” while noting his three riding victories that day.

Baze said, “I never thought Rick Barry would be envious of me.”