07/29/2013 1:35PM

Santa Rosa: Patterson trading in jockey's book for the barn


Longtime agent Dennis Patterson is returning to his roots.

Patterson has been booking mounts for Frank Alvarado this summer as a favor for his friend Boon McCanna, but when the current Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa ends, he will move back to his brother Bill’s barn working with horses.

Patterson got his start in racing working for his father, also named Dennis, who died earlier this year.

“I think the reason anybody gets in the game is because of horses,” he said.

“I had a lot of talks with my dad about wanting to get back to the horses. He liked that I wanted to be back in the barn. I’d helped my dad even when I was an agent.”

Patterson has been an agent for 25 years, first working with Harry Vega. He has handled some of Northern California’s top jockeys, including Frank Alvarado, Aaron Gryder, Jason Lumpkins, Dennis Carr, Chad Schvaneveldt, Jose Arriaga, Michael Martinez, Adalberto Lopez, Kevin Krigger, Kyle Frey, and Mario Gutierrez.

“I never felt I worked for any of them,” said Patterson. “I felt I worked with them.”

He went above and beyond with Martinez after the talented young rider was paralyzed in a spill. Patterson worked with Golden Gate Fields track physician Dr. David Seftel in trying to arrange for stem-cell treatment for Martinez.

Patterson concedes he might return to the life of a jockey agent some day, but for now he’s happy with his decision.

“I’ve thought about doing this for years, but I kept doing so well as an agent that I didn’t change,” he said. “Now I’d rather do something I feel I want to do at this time rather than something I’ve been successful at.

“My brother has a new barn, and I’d like to keep this a family thing.”

The boys get their chance

Males will be in the spotlight this weekend at Santa Rosa after females ran last weekend in the Wine Country Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Luther Burbank for older.

Ten 3-year-olds were nominated to Saturday’s $50,000-added Robert Dupret Derby at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Twelve older runners were nominated to Sunday’s $50,000 Joseph Grace at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

The stakes winner Outside Nashville and his Jerry Hollendorfer stablemate Our Cognac Kid, second and third in the Livermore Valley Wines sprint stakes at Pleasanton, are nominated to the Dupret, where they would be making their turf debuts.

Heading the Grace nominees are Summer Hit, who missed by a neck after setting the pace in the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile on the turf and then won the Grade 3 All American on the main track at Golden Gate Fields, and Positive Response, who won the County of Alameda Handicap at Pleasanton. Tribal Tribute, last year’s Robert Dupret winner, is also nominated to the Grace.

Back, back, back, back

Trainer John Martin is a passionate baseball fan. He has season tickets to the Oakland Athletics and is frequently among the first fans entering the park. He goes to the outfield bleachers and has caught many batting practice home runs.

His seat is in the second deck and in perfect foul ball territory.

“I’ve caught 51 balls,” he said, the highlight coming when he caught two foul balls in the same at bat.

But last Tuesday, before the Sonoma County Fair opened, Martin had his own “web gem” highlight while sitting in the left-field bleachers watching the San Francisco Giants play the Cincinnati Reds.

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco drilled a home run to left, and Martin played the ball perfectly, making a stretching over-the-head catch that was replayed on television. A friend taped the replay and sent it to Martin, who now proudly shows off the play on his cell phone.

Clone confrontation

On Thursday, the classy 14-year-old mule Sarah Nelson will race at the Sonoma County Fair. The only mule to defeat both Black Ruby and Taz in their primes has won 2 of 3 starts this year.

In the field against her is her clone, the 4-year-old Lil Sarah, who had won three straight before finishing third on opening day in Santa Rosa.

Roger Downey, who owns both mules, will be the guest Thursday morning at the fair’s handicapping seminar to talk about the cloning process and his two star runners.

◗ Santa Rosa’s ontrack live handle for its opening day last Friday was up 16 percent compared with the first Friday in 2012 (last year’s meet began on a Wednesday). The all-sources live handle for Santa Rosa races was up 22 percent.

The positive trend continued through the opening weekend. Santa Rosa races five-day weeks starting on Wednesdays the next two weeks.

◗ Beginning Wednesday, the name of one fan each day will be drawn to participate in an “Owner for a Day” promotion. The winning fan will go inside the paddock before a race and then watch the race trackside at the finish line. He’ll then be included in the winner’s circle picture and will receive a free copy of the photo.