03/08/2011 3:06PM

Positive Response provides boost to Golden Gate 3-year-olds

Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
Positive Response scores a wire-to-wire win in the Battaglia Memorial.

Although Golden Gate Fields is stuck in the middle of a two-month period without stakes racing, the 3-year-old ranks here received a boost from a race halfway across the country. Locally based Positive Response scored a seven-length, wire-to-wire victory in the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park as the 2-1 favorite Saturday.

Trained by Billy Morey, Positive Response won the Gold Rush and California Derby over the Tapeta earlier in the Golden Gate meet and was third in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby here last month. Morey said he sent Positive Response to Turfway for the Battaglia because the Pomeroy gelding runs so well on synthetic surfaces.

“It was the timing of the race and the fact it was on a synthetic surface,” he said.

Positive Response made his first two starts for Kelly Callaghan at Woodbine and was sent to Morey after winning a maiden race. Positive Response’s first two victories for Morey came in a starter allowance at a mile and then in the one-mile Gold Rush. Both were wire-to-wire wins. He stalked the pace and pulled away in the 1 1/16-mile California Derby and also sat back in the El Camino.

His jockey at Turfway Park, Julien Couton, quickly sensed that none of his Battaglia rivals seemed intent on gunning for the lead, so he went to the front and rated Positive Response perfectly through the 1 1/16-mile race, setting even fractions of 24.26 seconds, 48.29, and 1:12.84. The winning time was 1:45.13.

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Morey and fellow owners Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman, and Ray Pagano had a big celebration following the victory – Morey’s biggest on the road – and then confirmed plans to leave Positive Response at Turfway, where he will run in the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 26.

Positive Response is housed in Turfway’s stakes barn under the care of his groom, Ruben Botello. Morey’s assistant, Jim Haverty, is going back to oversee everyday preparations.

“It’s just going to keep me on the move the next three weeks,” said Morey, who will make several trips east before the race.

Northern California-based horses have done well in the Spiral, which was won by Event of the Year in 1998 and by Globalize two years later. Both runners were trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Lilacs and Lace sold, now with Terranova

Duane Offield said that California Oaks winner Lilacs and Lace, a Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel homebred, has been sold. James Covello purchased a majority share of the 3-year-old Flower Alley filly for an undisclosed sum, and she will be trained by John Terranova.

She was sent to Fair Grounds in New Orleans in hopes of running in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 19 but was scratched.

“She’s a good filly,” Offield said. “I hope they do well with her, but it’s bittersweet.”

There were no stakes races for her this spring in Northern California, other than the Golden Poppy on turf April 16.

“Right now, for me to have a filly like her was really tough,” Offield said. “We’d have to ship and run.

Turbulent Descent the latest bargain

Turbulent Descent, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday over Zazu, was purchased by former Northern California-based trainer Greg Gilchrist for Scott Sherwood and his Blinkers On Racing group.

The owners paid $160,000 for Turbulent Descent, who is just the latest bargain Gilchrist purchased at the Ocala Sales Co.’s 2-year-olds in training sale.

Perhaps the best known purchase was Lost in the Fog, whom Gilchrist purchased privately after the colt did not meet his reserve at the sale. Victorina was another Ocala graduate bought by Gilchrist, as was High Resolve, the only horse Gilchrist still owns and was recently sent to Kentucky to be bred.

“It’s been pretty good to us,” Gilchrist said of the Ocala sale.

Gilchrist said that when he retired last year, Sherwood decided to stop running in Northern California, but he still had Gilchrist look for horses for him. Gilchrist is pleased that Sherwood’s group hooked up with trainer Mike Puype, who trains Turbulent Descent. Puype, based in Southern California, used to work for Walter Greenman up north.

“I liked Mike up here when he was with Walter Greenman,” Gilchrist said. “He’s a guy with an eye for detail. He spends a lot of time in the barn and isn’t afraid to touch horses.

After the victory, Puype said Turbulent Descent was not a candidate for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks but would run, instead, in shorter races.

It sounded like Gilchrist, who kept Lost in the Fog sprinting rather than trying to stretch him out for a Derby bid. The result was an Eclipse Award as the top sprinter.

Gilchrist said that he and Puype discussed Turbulent Descent’s future even before her victory and agreed she would probably be best at a mile, particularly around one turn.

“It’s funny to be talking about distance, because she’s won Grade 1’s at a mile and a sixteenth as a 2-year-old and 3-year-old,” Gilchrist said.