04/26/2009 11:00PM

Silky Sullivan a complement to the big race


Three-year-olds, appropriately enough, will be in the spotlight locally Saturday in the $75,000 Silky Sullivan at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

The race is named for Northern California's most famous horse, who captivated racing fans with his stirring finishes. Silky Sullivan, who is buried in the Golden Gate Fields infield, finished 12th in the 1958 Kentucky Derby.

Four local runners are definite for the Silky Sullivan - Adriatic Noon, runner-up in the Gold Rush last December; Kalookan Storm, fourth in the Tempe Handicap on the turf at Turf Paradise on March 14; Niner Genius, who just won his maiden on the turf; and Sport King, a winner of two races who also graduated on the turf.

Saturday is, of course, Kentucky Derby Day, and Northern California tracks have rarely run stakes on that day because management has felt the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby was enough incentive to get fans to the track.

Robert Hartman, Golden Gate Fields general manager, said that running the Silky Sullivan on Derby Day was part of an effort to put the best cards together on Saturdays. Last Saturday, Golden Gate ran the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile and a very strong undercard.

"We had a good crowd ontrack, and our out-of-state handle was very good," Hartman said.

Golden Gate will open early at 7:15 a.m. both Friday (for the Kentucky Oaks) and Saturday, and will simulcast the full Churchill Downs cards each day. First post locally on Saturday will be 11:45 a.m.

On Saturday, the track will host a Run for the Roses hat contest. The winner will receive $500. Mint juleps will be served in official Kentucky Derby glassware.

Breakthrough for Mr Napper Tandy

The San Francisco Mile came down to a photo finish between a pair of runners that had never won a stakes race before. Mr Napper Tandy caught pacesetting Yacht Spotter in the final two strides to win the one-mile turf race by a head, with Bold Chieftain another three-quarters of a length back in third.

Mr Napper Tandy, a 5-year-old British-bred horse, came into the race with a 3-11-1 record from 22 starts, including 5 seconds and 1 third in 12 stakes starts.

"He's a tough horse to ride," said trainer Jack Carava. "I've always liked this horse, even though he's a frustrating horse because of all the seconds."

Julio Garcia, who rode Truce Maker to victory in the 1985 San Francisco Mile, got the victory in his first start aboard Mr Napper Tandy, who was coming off a second in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita.

Yacht Spotter nearly led all the way, and his cause was helped by the scratch of what would have been three major rivals: Liberian Freighter, who won Saturday's Tiznow at Hollywood Park; Storm Meeting, second in Sunday's Inglewood at Hollywood Park; and Silent Soul, who also scratched from the Inglewood.

A 5-year-old gelding, Yacht Spotter now has 5 wins and 3 seconds in 8 starts over Golden Gate's turf course.

"He may not have the class of some horses but he tries harder than the rest of them," said his jockey, Alex Bisono.

Trainer Bill Morey Jr. said he was happy with Bold Chieftain's close third.

"He showed a little of his old spark," said Morey.

Morey had to have jockey Roberto Gonzalez force Bold Chieftain to press Yacht Spotter a bit because there was no other speed in the race.

"That horse is a little underrated," Morey said of Yacht Spotter. "When he gets on that lonesome lead, he's tough to catch."