07/09/2009 11:00PM

Welken takes a shot on dirt


Kent Molinaro did not have Sunday's $50,000 Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap in mind when he claimed Welken for $40,000 at Hollywood Park on May 21. But then the 5-year-old Welken won at first asking for Molinaro in a $50,000 optional claimer on the turf at Golden Gate Fields, and the stakes opportunity came into focus.

At 1 1/16 miles on the dirt track at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., the Fillies and Mares Handicap is not ideal for Welken, Molinaro said, but it's his best option. Among the factors that persuaded Molinaro to run Welken were the small field - she has only six rivals - and the lack of a heavy favorite.

"We want to keep her on the turf, but there was no turf or second [allowance] condition here," Molinaro said. "We were debating whether to run in a $40,000 claimer at Hollywood Park but decided to stay home."

Welken, stakes-placed as a 2-year-old at Emerald Downs, has won on dirt as well as turf. She has hit the board in her last six starts, since coming back from a 16-month layoff.

Molinaro likes the way Welken has trained over the local track, and he's looking forward to getting her back on turf in the Aug. 8 Luther Burbank at Santa Rosa.

The conditions aren't optimal for the 3-year-old Congo Kaye, either. She is facing older females for the first time and is coming back about two weeks after finishing second in the six-furlong Sweepida on June 27 at Stockton. That is quicker than her trainer, John Anderson, would prefer.

"You don't want to come back in 14 or 15 days, but we're kind of up against it," said Anderson. "I thought she'd run a big race at Stockton, and she did. I just wish this was another week away."

Congo Kaye won the Juan Gonzalez here last year in her debut, which is her lone victory.

The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained entry of Christmas Ship and Glacier Peak appears tough. Shes a Lucky Wager, Rule the Storm, and Dynamatic complete the field.

Christmas Ship won an allowance race at this distance locally last year under Frank Alvarado, who rides her again Sunday.