02/22/2016 11:46AM

Millionaire Alert Bay looks to pad bankroll in Sensational Star

Benoit & Associates
Alert Bay wins the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile last September.

ARCADIA, Calif. – When Alert Bay earned $47,500 for a second-place finish in the $251,000 California Cup Turf Classic at Santa Anita on Jan. 30, he became the 62nd California-bred to surpass $1 million in career earnings.

That’s a big crowd, one led by 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, with earnings of $6,442,650. Alert Bay has banked $1,028,235, which is just fine with trainer Blaine Wright.

“For a guy like me, it means a lot,” Wright said last weekend. “I haven’t had a horse that made half that much.”

Wright, who races primarily in Northern California and Washington state, has guided Alert Bay to six of his eight stakes wins in a 23-race career that is far from over. A 5-year-old gelding, Alert Bay starts in the 18th stakes of his career Saturday in the $100,000 Sensational Star for California-breds on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita.

This will be the third start of the winter-spring meeting for Alert Bay. He was sixth by a length in the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes in his first career start on the hillside turf course Dec. 26 and second to What a View in the Cal Cup Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles. Alert Bay won the 2015 Cal Cup Turf Classic.

Owned by Peter Redekop, of British Columbia, Alert Bay has won 11 races, with the stakes wins coming at such diverse locations as Hastings Park in Canada, Zia Park in New Mexico, Golden Gate Fields, and three races at Santa Anita.

“When he stretched out, that’s when things took off,” Wright said.

Alert Bay won the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile at Santa Anita in December 2014, the fourth of five consecutive stakes wins that fall and winter, and the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile here last September, his most recent win.

“Alert Bay is an elite horse,” Wright said. “He’s taken me places I never dreamed of going. He gave me my first win at Santa Anita.”

By City Zip, Alert Bay is out of the Chilean-bred mare Hickory, by Dushyantor. Hickory won seven races. Alert Bay is the only stakes winner she has produced.

Wright has trained Alert Bay for all but two of his starts since late 2013. Anita Bolton trained Alert Bay to two stakes wins in the autumn of 2014, the first two races of the five-race winning streak.

Alert Bay was second in three consecutive starts at the beginning of his career in late 2013 and then won 11 of 17 starts through the City of Hope Mile. That consistency left Wright an admirer. He is quick to remind people that the gelding has shown the ability to win on dirt and turf and at a variety of distances.

“That’s one reason it makes it easy to find races for him,” Wright said.

Wright, 41, grew up in a racing family, the son of jockey turned trainer Richard Wright. Blaine Wright had uncles who raced Quarter Horses and ran chariots in Utah. At the start of his career, Wright had a few winners at Playfair in Washington state and Turf Paradise in the 1990s while working primarily for his father as an assistant. In 2000, he left training to work in the sheet-metal business in Washington state. On weekends, he worked on the gate crew at Emerald Downs.

“That was a heck of an experience,” he said. “It’s a job that people take for granted. When you’ve worked it, you know how important it is.”

In 2005, Wright returned to the backstretch, first as an assistant to Grant Forster. He began training his own stable in 2006. One of the leading runners in the stable in those years was the 10-time winner Gadget Queen, who won two stakes and earned $309,030 while racing from 2006 to 2011.

“She showed me what a racehorse was,” Wright said. “She wasn’t bred well. She was a digger.”

Hudson Landing was Wright’s first graded stakes winner, taking the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields in 2012. The win came three races after Hudson Landing was claimed for $50,000.

Alert Bay has replaced Hudson Landing as the top horse in the stable, which Wright expects to number 60 runners between California and Washington later this year. Alert Bay is likely to race in Southern California more than any other venue this year, with the chance to add to an already-remarkable career.