08/24/2011 1:09PM

Woodbine: Gonzalez tries his luck up north


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Alex Gonzalez, who had his first two mounts here Aug. 18, has become the latest American-born rider to toss his hat into the ring at Woodbine.

The 19-year-old Gonzalez, who was born in New Jersey but raised in West Virginia, comes by his profession honestly as his both his father, Freddie Gonzalez Jr., and grandfather, Freddie Gonzalez, enjoyed careers in the saddles.

“My dad retired in the early 1980s,” Gonzalez said as he waited to breeze the maiden 3-year-old filly Crimson Spire on the training track turf course for trainer Mark Frostad here Wednesday morning.

“He taught me the ropes and then got out of the game. My grandfather is a jockey’s agent in Florida.

“I learned how to ride at Calder, on the track. I started there when I was 17. I won with the first mount I ever rode, for [trainer] Kirk Ziadie.”

That success came with Ruby’s Red Socks in a five-furlong starter allowance at Calder on July 23, 2009.

“I only rode there a couple of meets,” Gonzalez said. “I won my first five races there and finished my 10-pound bug.”

Opportunity soon knocked, and the young Gonzalez went west.

“I was getting on horses for Wesley Ward at the time,” Gonzalez said. “He had a friend in California, who was an agent, so I took a shot in the dark. It worked out well.”

Gonzalez rode 67 winners at Golden Gate before heading south to Hollywood Park.

Hooking up with agent Vince DeGregory, Gonzalez won 17 races through the balance of the 2010 season.

“I had a little injury at Del Mar, which put me out for six weeks, but I was back up when Hollywood started again,” Gonzalez said.

He then added two winners at Santa Anita on Dec. 27.

“That was my last day with the bug,” said Gonzalez, who returned east in the new year and had ridden mainly at Parx Racing and at Delaware Park before Woodbine beckoned.

“My fiancée is from Vancouver,” Gonzalez said. “We always talked about Woodbine, but we never put any real thought into it.”

Obviously, the talk became a reality recently and now both Gonzalez and his fiancée, Jennifer Tompkins, have taken up residence here.

“She’s working with [trainer] Steve Attard; she’s learning how to exercise ride,” Gonzalez said. “She comes from a racing family, too.”

Gonzalez, who is represented here by Ron Burke, currently is allowed to ride only foreign-owned horses due to his immigration status.

In the meantime, he and Tompkins are to be married Tuesday.

Attfield making trip to Del Mar

In all of his racing travels, trainer Roger Attfield has never been to Del Mar.

Attfield has started two horses there, watching from afar as Perfect Shirl finished third in last year’s Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and when Midnight Mischief ended eighth in the previous summer’s Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

On Sunday, Attfield will be in attendance when Don Cavallo goes postward in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic over 1 1/4 miles of Del Mar’s Polytrack surface.

Jockey Luis Contreras, who guided Don Cavallo to an impressive win in the Grade 3 Dominion Day over the same distance of Polytrack here July 1, has the call for the Pacific Classic.

Don Cavallo, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old colt, races for his breeders, Stronach Stable.

Assistant trainer Nancy Sullivan will be running the show here in Attfield’s absence and will saddle Smart Sting for Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

Smart Sting breezed four furlongs in 49 seconds under exercise rider Darren Fortune on the main track here Wednesday morning.

Also bred in Kentucky and racing for Team Stronach, Smart Sting is coming off a close fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks over 1 1/8 miles at Colonial Downs.

Smart Sting’s two career victories both came over one mile of turf, here in her debut last Oct. 23 and in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream Park on March 16.

Eurico Rosa da Silva will ride Smart Sting for the first time in the Ontario Colleen.

The Attfield barn also will be represented at Saratoga on Saturday with Mekong Melody and Miss Keller in the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa over 1 1/16 miles of turf.

Sarah Sullivan, the youngest of three Sullivan sisters and also an assistant in the Attfield barn, will oversee Mekong Melody and Miss Keller at Saratoga.

Pender Harbour back to work

Pender Harbour, winner of Fort Erie’s 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales on July 17 and the Breeders’ Stakes here over 1 1/2 miles of turf on Aug. 7, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 on the training track here Wednesday.

His regular rider, Luis Contreras, was aboard for the drill.

“He went to the farm for a few days and had about a week off after the Breeders’,” said Mike DePaulo, who trains Pender Harbour for Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk, and Bob and Roberta Giffin.

“We’re just getting him into a little work program.”

DePaulo will be looking at both the Pennsylvania Derby, a $1 million dirt race at Parx Racing on Sept. 24, and the Ontario Derby here as possible spots for Pender Harbour’s return.

Both are 1 1/8-mile races for 3-year-olds, with the Pennsylvania Derby offering Grade 2 status and the Ontario Derby a listed stakes worth $150,000.

Pender Harbour also finished third in the Queen’s Plate at 1 1/4 miles here June 26.

Hippolytus eyes local stakes

Hippolytus, the only other horse to race in all three legs of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, also breezed for the first time since the Breeders’ on Wednesday, going five furlongs in 1:01.60 over the main track.

Owned by Harvey Swartz and Richard Lederman and trained by Mark Casse, Hippolytus finished second in the Queen’s Plate and fourth in both the Prince of Wales and the Breeders’.

“I’m going to enter him in both the Vice Regent and the Elgin, and then decide where to run him,” Casse said.

The $125,000 Vice Regent, a one-mile turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds, will be run here Sept. 4. The Elgin, a 1 1/16-mile race on the main track for 3-year-olds and up, is one of six yearling sales stakes scheduled for the Labor Day, Sept. 5, card.