12/01/2011 5:32PM

Hovdey: Hollendorfer embraces young talent

Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
Lady of Fifty, with Kevin Krigger riding, wins the Golden Gate Debutante.

They may be clearing encampments of the “99 percent” movement far and wide, but Jerry Hollendorfer is still very much committed to his Occupy Golden Gate Fields strategy, with the latest demonstration scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the $75,000 Corte Madera Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Entering half of the six-filly field, Hollendorfer would appear to have the mile on the Tapeta main track surrounded. As of Thursday he intended to run recent turf winner Sweet Nothings (by Street Cry), Golden Gate Debutante winner Lady of Fifty (by After Market), and the unbeaten Hennessy River (by Johannesburg). Run the Blues Away, My Gi Gi, and Power of Nine represent the opposition.

None of the names will ring a national bell, and they’re not meant to, at least at this stage. Anyway, the leaders of the division are apparent.

My Miss Aurelia sewed up the championship winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Stephanie’s Kitten and runner-up Stopshoppingmaria were nearly as impressive in their heart-stopper in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. Disposablepleasure did papa Giacomo proud winning the Demoiselle at Aqueduct last Saturday, but it was only a nose back to Wildcat’s Smile. And what do we do with On Fire Baby? That daughter of Smoke Glacken made an absolute hash of nine rivals in Saturday’s Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.

There is one more race of significance left on the calendar for the division, which would be the $250,000 Starlet Stakes at Hollywood Park on Dec. 10. After that let the games begin in search of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner. Odds are she won’t emerge from the Corte Madera (although 2004 winner Cee’s Irish won the Sunland Oaks), but let no one forget that these are 2-year-old fillies, all of them works in progress.

The Corte Madera represents a rare event, being a stakes race offered these days by a dramatically downsized Golden Gate. Over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday, the track offered exactly one race for horses of quality, the All American Handicap, won by Our Nautique over the old battler Bold Chieftain. Our Nautique is trained – what a surprise – by Jerry Hollendorfer.

This is business as usual for what has become a backwater Frank Stronach track. Despite its picturesque, bluff-top setting on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay and its proximity to one of the most densely populated areas in the western United States, not to mention its 70 years of history, Golden Gate Fields appears to be on the way out as a Thoroughbred stage.

The Damocles sword of real estate development hangs forever over the track’s head, most recently exemplified by the Stronach Group’s bid for Golden Gate to be razed and the site to become home to a research campus/laboratory under the prestigious Lawrence Berkeley banner. A decision on the new campus site, initially expected this week, was postponed until early 2012.

In the meantime the show goes on. Hollenfdorfer, who has clinched his 34th Golden Gate training title, was asked to sort through his trio for the Corte Madera.

“Lady of Fifty’s got good size to her – a nice, big filly,” he said. “That was a good win in the Debutante and she’s been training well, so now we’re going to try and stretch her out.”

Sweet Nothings took her time finding a way to win after three sprints and two miles, one each on Tapeta and turf, before her maiden win on a yielding Golden Gate course. Back in July she was fourth, beaten only a length, in a maiden race won by West Coast division leader Weemissfrankie at Del Mar.

“I have no hard and fast rule about which surface is best for a horse,” Hollendorfer said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that you should never put any limitations on any horse. Just as soon as you do, they come right back and do what you thought they couldn’t do. Sweet Nothings deserves a chance to run in this race no matter what the surface.”

Then there is Hennessy River, who cost $3,500 as a weanling and won her first start for a $20,000 tag. That figures to be the last time she will be available at such a bargain price, setting up the possibility that Hollendorfer could look back some day and claim he dodged a bullet.

“I hope so, yes,” Hollendorfer said. “She’s wasn’t working well at first, but now I quite like her. Russell Baze wanted to ride her, and that’s always a good thing.”

This has been a memorable year for Hollendorfer. His barns in L.A. and the Bay Area still have that new Hall of Fame smell from his induction in Saratoga Springs last August. In September he became only the fourth trainer to reach 6,000 winners. Through the end of November, he sits behind only Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher in all-around stats, ranking fourth on the winners list and eighth in purses.

There is rarely a California 2-year-old stakes event these days in which Hollendorfer is not represented. The trainer was asked how many young’uns he had in the barns, north and south.

“I really don‘t have that number,” Hollendorfer said. “Not as many as Baffert.”

Neither does Wyoming, but never mind. The best of Hollendorfer’s fillies might be Killer Graces, a stakes winner last summer who recently finished a game second to Charm the Maker in the Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park. She is on target for the Starlet.

“All young horses come along in their own time in their own way,” Hollendorfer said. “I wouldn’t put any of them at the top of the heap, although it’s nice to have one you think might be the best. Hopefully others will come along and maybe end up even better.”