06/28/2011 11:28AM

Pleasanton: Honor Gulch eyes rare win in start No. 101


They don’t make ‘em like Honor Gulch any more.

A 9-year-old gelding, Honor Gulch will make career start No. 101 in Thursday’s eighth race at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif.

Longevity is a strong suit for Honor Gulch, who has won only two races and never lived up to his royal breeding.

He’s a son of Gulch, who earned over $3 million dollars and won seven Grade 1’s, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. His dam, Poolesta, won $342,039 and two Grade 3 stakes during her career. Seven of her nine foals were winners, and six, headed by Japanese millionaire Dragon Welds, have topped the $100,000 mark in earnings – including Honor Gulch.

Although Honor Gulch is a consistent check earner, he’s won only a maiden $32,000 claimer in 200) and a $4,000 nonwinners-of-two claiming race at Pleasanton on July 5, 2008. Trainer Tim Bellasis claimed him for $12,500 on Sept. 8, 2006, from Art Sherman, who claimed him for $40,000 a year earlier at Del Mar.

Bellasis mostly shakes his head and laughs when describing the old-timer, who has his own ways of doing things.

“He doesn’t lay his body down,” said Bellasis. “He’s a very weird horse. He has a lot of idiosyncrasies. He will not run around the far turn, and if he gets hit with the whip, he will not try.

“When he gets to the three-eighths pole, it’s like he stops, waiting to see if the jockey’s going to whip him. By the time he gets to the quarter pole, he’s lost all chance, but if he hasn’t been whipped, he’ll start to run again. He’s a very frustrating horse for any rider. You can tap him on the shoulder, but you can’t hit him on the butt.”

According to Bellasis, owner Cassandra Taschanz got so frustrated with Honor Gulch that she began to prepare him for the next stage of his career, bringing a Western saddle out to the barn and riding him around the barn for several days.

“So we know he’ll make someone a nice saddle horse,” said Bellasis.

The gelding is still enthusiastic about life at the track, and he earns enough to pay his way. And though Bellasis is quick with a good-natured quip about the old-timer, he does care for him, and he expects to train Honor Gulch for the rest of the horse’s career.

“I think he’s mine for keeps,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to claim a horse that’s 2 for 100.”