08/08/2013 11:27AM

Santa Rosa: Ourwestcoastghost risks streak in Jess Jackson Owners' Handicap

Vassar Photography
Ourwestcoastghost has won three straight since returning from a layoff of over a year, including the Casual Lies at Pleasanton (above).

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Ourwestcoastghost has perhaps become Northern California’s top sprinter this year and will try to strengthen his case in Saturday’s $50,000-added Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif. The five-furlong turf race also attracted Ain’t No Other and Starboardlights, who both have finished in the top three in the Jess Jackson for the last two years.

Ourwestcoastghost has hit the board in all seven career starts and is 3 for 3 this year after having spent more than a year on the sidelines. Owner-breeder-trainer Wayne Baker said he gave the 5-year-old Muqtarib gelding time off in spring 2012 simply because he thought he needed a freshener. But it took Ourwestcoastghost much longer than expected to return, and the time off paid dividends.

Ourwestcoastghost won his comeback May 4 and took an allowance June 8, with both races at Golden Gate Fields. Then came the big test, his first stakes start in the $75,000 Casual Lies at Pleasanton.

Drawn on the rail, Ourwestcoastghost did not break sharply and was actually trailing the rest of the field at the first call, but he rallied and pulled clear at the wire.

Baker says he expects Ourwestcoastghost to revert to his stalking style. He breaks from post 8 in the field of 10.

Baker, who bred and owns the gelding with Ron and Lillian Lang, said he considered sending Ourwestcoastghost to Del Mar, but decided to try him on turf for the first time in the Jess Jackson.

“There really wasn’t anything apart from the Bing Crosby, but we weren’t ready for a Grade 1 this quickly,” Baker said.

Turf should offer no problem for Ourwestcoastghost. His sire, Muqtarib, was a turf stakes winner in England, and his dam, Xpress Xcess, by In Excess, was third in her lone turf start.

One interesting aspect of the Jess Jackson is that owners choose the weight their horse carries and then must get a jockey who can make that weight. Baker put in for only 112 pounds and will ride Abel Cedillo.

“He made 114 in the Casual Lies and says he can ride lighter,” Baker said.

Ain’t No Other was first under the wire in the inaugural Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap two years ago but was disqualified and placed third. Last year, he missed by a neck as the 9-10 favorite.

Starboardlights has run only twice on the turf, both times in the Jess Jackson. He was third, moved up to second on Ain’t No Other’s disqualification two years ago and third again last year.

Aint’ No Other will be joined by Jerry Hollendorfer-trained stablemates Zeewat, a multiple-stakes-winning 3-year-old making his turf debut, and the sharp Moonshine Bay.

Rounding out the field are Northern Causeway, Handsome Harvey Jr, Streamside, Our Magic Couple, and What’s for Dinner. He’s a Dance Star and Gig Harbor are on the also-eligible list.