10/25/2009 11:00PM

Lady Railrider erases doubts


Lady Railrider's repeat victory in Saturday's $50,600 Pacific Heights Stakes could complicate trainer Steve Specht's life. The wire-to-wire victory in the 1 1/16-mile race was her first on turf and gives Specht more options as he plans her schedule for later this year and early next year.

The Pacific Heights was the second start on the grass for the 4-year-old Lady Railrider. She ran second to stablemate Shes a Lucky Wager - who was the runner-up in the Pacific Heights - in her turf debut at age 2.

Last year's Pacific Heights was run on the Tapeta main track.

"Even though I thought she'd handle turf, there was some doubt in my mind," Specht said.

One of the options will come in the Sunshine Millions in January, when Specht can now look at the filly and mare races on both turf and the main track.

Lady Railrider was second to Leah's Secret in the Sunshine Millions Distaff on the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita last January. Next year's Distaff will be held on dirt at Gulfstream in Florida, while the turf race will be run at Santa Anita.

"This win gives you options to see which of those races would be tougher," Specht said.

With no suitable races at Golden Gate for Lady Railrider, Specht said he would look for a stakes race at Hollywood Park's fall meet to give her a race before Sunshine Millions.

Specht was confident going into the Pacific Heights. Lady Railrider had just won the California Cup Matron on Oct. 3 following a five-month break.

"It was a little quick coming back, but I vanned her back the next day [after the Matron], and she didn't miss an oat," he said. "It was her only shot to run anywhere for a while. The only other spot was a $200,000 race on the Breeders' Cup undercard, and it was on the turf. If we were going to try the turf, I thought this would be a little softer company.

"I thought she handled the turf fine as a 2-year-old, and she's gotten much better since."

Lady Railrider's victory was the 999th of Specht's career. Victory No. 998 had come one race earlier with Antares World, a nine-length maiden winner for Larry and Marianne Williams, who also own and bred Lady Railrider.

Mawing returns to the saddle

Jockey Leslie Mawing, who had not ridden since suffering a broken leg April 1, returned to action when the Golden Gate Fields meet opened last Wednesday. He got his first win Thursday aboard Judge's Verdict in a one-mile maiden race on the turf. He also had a win Sunday.

"It felt really great to be back riding after 6 1/2 months," said the 35-year-old Mawing, who suffered compound fractures of both the tibia and fibula in his left leg when Pasta Time ducked through the inner rail while leading a turf race. "When I won on the turf, it boosted my confidence even more. I really enjoy riding on the turf."

Mawing was cleared to ride in mid-September and exercised some horses at Emerald Downs, primarily for trainer Frank Lucarelli. At first, he jogged or galloped horses and confessed, "The first three days were the toughest."

Mawing has a rod and two screws in his tibia. Though he is pleased with his conditioning, he still is not 100 percent and finds his leg a little stiff when he first wakes up.

"When you work horses or ride, you use muscles you forgot you had," he said.

Track to hold handicapping contests

A weekly handicapping contest will be conducted Saturdays at Golden Gate.

Each player must bet $20 in real money, with another $5 going into the prize pool. Golden Gate will put in another $5 for each entry. Players can enter as many times as they like. Sign-up is at the clubhouse service booth.

Any type of single-race wagers, including exotics, can be made at self-service terminals. No multiple-race wagers are allowed. Patrons keep all their winnings and are eliminated from the contest only if their bankroll drops to zero.

The top four finishers, based on bankroll, receive prizes with the winner getting 50 percent of the prize pool, 25 percent to second, 15 percent to third, and 10 percent to fourth.

In addition to the handicapping contest, Saturday will feature the Ghostly Gate Fields promotion with a haunted house, pumpkin patch, bounce houses, pony rides, face painting, and petting zoo from noon to 4 p.m. All activities are free, and children are admitted free to the track.

* Golden Gate Fields was honored by Alameda County with the 2009 Stop Waste Partnership Business Efficiency Award in environmental performance. The track was recognized for pollution prevention and resource conservation for creating a systematic recycling program for patron-generated wastes, inaugurating a shuttle service from BART trains to the track, and using straw bedding and landscaping waste in composting operations.