04/23/2015 10:15AM

Pepper Crown attempts repeat in San Francisco Mile

Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography
Pepper Crown wins the 2014 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields.

Going into last year’s San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields, handicappers were lamenting trainer Alex Paszkeicz’s bad luck.

In the final prep before the Grade 3 event, his Pepnic won a $62,500 optional claimer but was claimed by Tim McCanna for David Taylor. Pepnic’s younger stablemate Pepper Crown ran third that day.

But Pepper Crown won the San Francisco Mile, overtaking the favored Summer Hit with a strong stretch run, as Paszkeicz celebrated his first graded stakes victory with a $94.20 winner and Pepper Crown captured his stakes debut.

No one is feeling sorry for Paszkeicz this year, as Pepper Crown tries to repeat in the $100,000 San Francisco Mile against seven rivals Saturday.

Summer Hit, the runner-up in the past two editions, and G. G. Ryder, who holds a 3-2 lead over Pepper Crown as the two have made up the exacta in their past four meetings, both will run. Graded turf stakes winner Are You Kidding Me will make his California and 2015 debut, and turf stakes winner Edge of Reality also will be coming north for the race.

Tiz Dynamic, Polytechnicien, and Toruk Makto round out the field.

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“It’s going to be a lot tougher,” Paszkeicz said of repeating. “Everyone will be pointing at us or looking over their shoulder for us.”

Pepper Crown got a ground-saving trip last year and dropped down inside the pacesetting Summer Hit once past the temporary rail.

“That helped us an awful lot,” Paszkeicz said. “That was a big opening that wouldn’t have been there on the main track that he came through. I couldn’t believe the move he made.”

Apprentice David Lopez will ride.

“It’s my first opportunity to use him,” said Paszkeicz. “It will be an opportunity for him to find out what it’s like without the bug, but he’s a good kid, and he’s held his own here.”

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Pepper Crown (Last 3 Beyers: 95-91-94)

◗ He won with a ground-saving trip last year but should be able to get over despite his draw in post 7.

◗ Apprentice rider Lopez gets a big opportunity here, but he’s getting no weight break.

◗ The defending race winner just needs a clean trip and runs well inside or outside.

G. G. Ryder (Last 3 Beyers: 95-101-84)

◗ He’s won 3 of 4 over this course and should save ground from the rail as he sits behind stablemate Summer Hit. He’s won a turf stakes here and has developed a good rivalry with Pepper Crown. He has more speed than that one and should get first run on his stablemate.

Are You Kidding Me (Last 3 Beyers: 76-91-93)

◗ This veteran has moved into the barn of Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale as he makes his 2015 debut. Drysdale does well with new faces and runners coming off layoffs, not to mention graded stakes.

◗ It’s been 19 months since his last victory in the Grade 3 Kent on turf. He should be able to save ground behind the Hollendorfer duo.