09/09/2010 11:55AM

Luckarack faces onslaught of invaders in Angel Island


A budding rivalry between two Northern California-based colts, a Jerry Hollendorfer-trained entry, the local debut of a highly regarded colt from a Hall of Fame trainer, and a two-time winner from Ireland make Saturday’s $50,000 Angel Island one of the most anticipated stakes races of the year at Golden Gate Fields.

The 1 1/16-mile Tapeta race for 2-year-olds rematches the undefeated two-time stakes winner Luckarack against King Cola, who was the runner-up to Luckarack in the six-furlong Cavonnier on Aug. 14 at Santa Rosa.

Other locals in the field include the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained stablemates Kingsford Drive, third as the favorite in the Cavonnier, and El Gaucho, winner of a strong maiden race.

Favoritism could go to Acaffella, a $200,000 yearling purchase trained by Richard Mandella, a member of the Hall of Fame. Acaffella was second in his only race, a maiden special at Del Mar on Aug. 25 going one mile on the turf.

“This colt got in a little bit of trouble in his debut, but he didn’t quit. He was really finishing strong,” said Mandella.

“I had a feeling he’d like turf, and we’ll try it again, but I really thought he wanted two turns. He may like the main track, too, and this gives us a chance to see where we may want to run him in the future.”

Moment of Weakness, bred and raced in Ireland, won his first two starts and was second in a listed stakes in his native country. He’ll be making his U.S. debut.

As talented as the invaders are, they will have to be runners to defeat Luckarack and King Cola.

Despite beginning his career in a $32,000 maiden claimer, Luckarack has emerged as Northern California’s top 2-year-old.

“He’s training really good,” said trainer Steve Specht, who worked him a mile in 1:42 at Golden Gate last Saturday after a five-furlong bullet drill the previous Sunday.

Specht was not displeased with the mile work, although he wished the colt had finished stronger. He said regular jockey Frank Alvarado got a good final five-eighths from him.

His primary concern is Luckarack’s tendency to loaf a bit and gawk at his surroundings, which he said the colt did after bursting to the lead in the Everett Nevin at Pleasanton and the in Cavonnier.

“At least this is his second time over this track, so that may help,” Specht said.

Trainer Dennis Patterson is confident King Cola will run well and get the distance.

“He finished really strong at six furlongs, and even though he’s had problems, he’s not intimidated,” said Patterson.

King Cola won his debut, a $32,000 maiden claimer at Golden Gate, and since then has finished second in the Lost in the Fog in June and then to Luckarack in the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa.