by Jack Shinar
Longtime Northern California training kingpin Jerry Hollendorfer said he's undecided on whether to attempt to defend the training title he won at Arlington Park in 2002. But he indicated he doesn't plan to stay put during the summer.
"We're considering our options, but we haven't made a decision on that," Hollendorfer said from his office at Golden Gate Fields, where he is currently working on his 43rd consecutive major training title in Northern California. "It's only February, and their meet doesn't start until June.
"One thing I can tell you is we're going to go somewhere," the 52-year-old trainer said. "We sure aren't going to sit around here waiting for the fair circuit to end. We're not going to keep our good horses here."
Hollendorfer, who has won every Bay Meadows and Golden Gate meet since 1986 and was third in the nation by wins last year with 263, has been openly critical of the California Horse Racing Board for shutting down Northern California racing while the fair circuit is in progress each summer. He called it "senseless."
He's expressed frustration with the purse levels, the lack of turf racing, and the difficulty of transporting his 2-year-olds to new locations every couple of weeks, especially during the best weather of the year in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Last summer, he made good on his threat to take his business elsewhere when he shipped 50 of his stable of 110 horses to Arlington. He won the training title there on the final weekend of the season, 41-39 over Wayne Catalano.
"We were very pleased with the way things turned out in Chicago," Hollendorfer said. "We ending up winning by a couple of races over Catalano and a couple of other trainers who were also very close. It was a good experience."
This summer, though, he said a second option would be to stay in California and compete at Hollywood Park and Del Mar.
For the first time this spring, Hollendorfer finds himself squarely on the Kentucky Derby trail with five potential candidates. He said plans are progressing smoothly for 3-year-olds USS Tinosa, who is co-owned by Peter Abruzzo of Chicago, Ill.; and Cappuchino and Yougottawanna. USS Tinosa is aiming for the March 17 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park, while Cappuchino and Yougottawanna are scheduled to run March 9 in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate.
Hollendorfer said he's seeking a dirt race for his inexperienced Lawn Mower, who posted an impressive victory in an allowance race on the grass at Golden Gate in late February. He said his other top 3-year-old candidate, Metatron, had a slight filling in one of his ankles.
"We took a picture of it but it didn't show anything, so we'll wait a couple of days and take another picture before deciding what we should do," Hollendorfer said of Metatron, who recently returned to competition following a long layoff.