Veteran campaigner Bold Chieftain, a 16-time winner of more than $1.4 million, is on one of the best form cycles of his six-year career as he prepares to race in the $150,000 San Francisco Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) at Golden Gate Fields April 24.
It's hard to believe that trainer Bill Morey Jr. was nearly ready to retire the 7-year-old California-bred son of Chief Seattle after his fourth-place finish in Santa Anita's San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) earlier this year. That was before Bold Chieftain went on to capture his richest victory Jan. 30 in the Sunshine Millions Classic despite trouble. With his win in a one-mile allowance tightener April 2, the dark bay horse has won five of his past six starts.
Now Bold Chieftain takes aim once again at his first graded stakes win (the San Francisco Mile is Golden Gate's only grade II event), and he'll attempt it on the turf, a surface that is probably not his best. Although with five wins in 14 tries on grass, he is certainly no slouch there, either. His last win on turf came in the California Dreamin' Handicap at Del Mar in August 2008.
Owned by Ernest Langbein Trust, Ken Robinson, Morey and Dwaine Hall, who also co-bred him, Bold Chieftain ran a game third in last year's San Francisco Mile, closing willingly to lose by three-quarters of a length to Mr Napper Tandy. The 2010 renewal drew a field of nine, all weighted equally at 122 pounds.
Bold Chieftain brings a lifetime mark of 16-6-4 in 35 starts into the race, where he will start from post 4 with regular rider Russell Baze aboard. Bold Chieftain has won 12 stakes races in his career, and he's been graded stakes-placed five more times. He equaled the track record for one mile, 1:34.71, in a stakes at Bay Meadows in March 2008. And he may never have a better opportunity to earn his first graded win.
His biggest challenger is the brilliant but sometimes erratic miler Monterey Jazz, a four-time graded stakes winner who lost to Bold Chieftain in their most recent start. Monterey Jazz, from the Craig Dollase barn for A & R Stables and Class Racing Stable, led by six lengths in that race over Golden Gate's Tapeta racing surface but tired in his first start in nearly six months and was caught late, losing by three-quarters of a length.
When he's on top of his game, few are better than Monterey Jazz. The 6-year-old son of Thunderello showed that last May when he broke the one-mile course record at Hollywood Park, clocking a 1:32.59. He came back six weeks later to roll to a front-running 3 1/4-length win in the American Handicap (gr. IIT), covering the nine furlong-distance at Hollywood in 1:46.11. Monterey Jazz, whose 23-race career is punctuated by a number of gaps, is winless in his four starts since the American.
Monterey Jazz, with eight wins and earnings of $684,480, breaks from post 7 and with Tyler Baze aboard.
Kelly Leak has done most of his running on dirt and synthetic tracks, but he has a win at the one-mile distance in four tries on turf, that victory coming in an allowance race at Santa Anita prior to his winning the 2009 Sunland Derby last spring.
Trained by Michael Machowsky for Blahut Racing and partners, the 4-year-old son of Runaway Groom is coming off a third-place finish in an allowance over Santa Anita's hillside turf course at about 6 1/2 furlongs. Kelly Leak has won three times in 12 starts and has earned $738,250. Jockey Paul Atkinson takes over.
Also shipping from Southern California is Irish-bred Golden Balls, a 6-year-old trained by James Cassidy who returned from an 18-month layoff with an encouraging fourth-place effort in the one-mile Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita April 3. Golden Balls, who won his American debut in the 2007 La Puente Stakes, finished less than two lengths behind the red-hot Compari in the Arcadia. Brice Blanc retains the mount.
Harris Farms, which owns Compari in partnership, has another streaking homebred in Red Sun, winner of four in a row in Southern California for trainer Carla Gaines. This will be the stakes debut for the 4-year-old son of Redattore, making only his sixth start.
The field also includes multiple stakes winner Gallant Son, trained by Frank Lucarelli. Massone has finished in the money in 14 of his 20 career starts while earning $453,800. Irish-bred Sir Al ran second in the Hawthorne Derby (gr. III) last year. Run It, from the Dennis Patterson barn, won a one-mile grass takes locally last year.
$150,000 San Francisco Mile Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:15 p.m.), 4 & Up (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Sir Al (IRE), J J Hernandez, W E Morey
2. Kelly Leak (FL), P Atkinson, M Machowsky
3. Golden Balls (IRE), B Blanc, J M Cassidy
4. Bold Chieftain (CA), R A Baze, W J Morey Jr.
5. Gallant Son (KY), L Mawing, F Lucarelli
6. Run It (KY), C P Schvaneveldt, D M Patterson
7. Monterey Jazz (KY), T Baze, C Dollase
8. Massone (KY), F T Alvarado, R L McAnally
9. Red Sun (CA), M Martinez, C Gaines
All carry 122 pounds.