11/26/2016 7:43PM

Stryker Phd rallies to edge G. G. Ryder by head in Berkeley Handicap

Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography
Stryker Phd and jockey Leslie Mawing win the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap on Saturday.

ALBANY, Calif. – As could be expected, the $100,000, Grade 3 Berkeley came down to a stretch duel Saturday at Golden Gate Fields, with the favored Stryker Phd ($4.60) rallying from last to nail G. G. Ryder at the line.

G. G. Ryder was fourth down the backstretch, ahead of only Styker Phd, as his stablemates Southern Freedom and Bronze Star set a moderate pace up front. Both runners were where their riders wanted and expected to be.

"I was so confident," winning jockey Leslie Mawing said. "Sometimes he has some antics before going in the gate, but not today. It was like he said, 'Game on.' "

"We were right where we wanted to be," said Ricardo Gonzalez, G. G. Ryder's jockey.

"I knew there would be early speed," said Mawing. "I just tried to be patient. You wait for him to tell you when he wants to go."

Southern Freedom held the lead around the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile race through a 24.03-second opening quarter. Bronze Star, who had set the pace in his past three stakes starts, took over down the backstretch through a 48.11 half-mile. He continued steadily on the lead through six furlongs in 1:12.21.

G. G. Ryder, who was running in his seventh straight Golden Gate graded stakes race for older horses, was beginning to move up with a three-wide trip in the clear. He opened a 1 1/2-length lead by the eighth pole and was finishing strong.

But Styker Phd, known for his late run, was also kicking into gear. He quickly went past Southern Freedom and Bronze Star and kept edging up on G. G. Ryder.

"I knew G. G. Ryder would be tough, and Ricky rode him great," said Mawing.    

Gonzalez was asking for more from G. G. Ryder down the lane as he sensed Stryker Phd in pursuit, and he said, "He gave it to me."

Mawing was also asking for more from Styker Phd.

"You can feel when a horse is digging in," he said.

Stryker Phd was able to put his head in front of G. G. Ryder at the wire, winning in 1:43.67.

"G. G. Ryder didn't quit," said Mawing.  

"I thought he had a really good chance," said winning trainer Larry Ross. "When he gets going like that, he's going to win."

The victory was worth $60,000 and gave Styker Phd, a two-time winner of the Longacres Mile, his 11th career win. He has now earned $619,841 for owners Jim and Mona Hour.