Desert Bloom Sizzles in Berkeley Handicap

Desert Bloom, coaxed to the front soon after the start by jockey Roberto Gonzalez, was able to dictate the pace and held on through the drive to post a mild upset in the $100,000 Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields Saturday.

The 5-year-old California-bred gelded son of Boomerang, trained by Art Sherman for owner Bob Bone of Sacramento, opened up a 3 1/2-length lead at the furlong pole and went on to a two-length triumph over Easy Million. It was six lengths farther back to Yougottawanna, who nosed Smoocher for third place.

Sherman also saddled the runner-up.

"They were training so good I wanted to enter both of them," said Sherman. "This was a good field, but I knew we had a shot."

Skipaslew, the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven, stalked the pace for Luis Jauregui, but faded in the stretch to finish sixth.

"He wouldn't pick up the bit today," said Jauregui.  "We were sitting in a good spot but when I got to the half-mile pole I had no horse.  He felt fine before the race.  I really don't know.  I guess it just wasn't his day." 

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds and up was an excellent 1:40 4/5.

Desert Bloom, who is out of the Desert Wine mare Sand Dance, won for the 13th time in 32 career starts. Bone claimed him for $32,000 from A.C. Avila at Hollywood Park in November. Since then, the dark bay has won five of seven starts with the Berkeley being his first stakes score. The $55,000 winning share pushed his career earnings to $386,920. Van Mar Farms bred the winner.

Desert Bloom set solid fractions of :22 4/5, :45 2/5 and 1:09 before shaking loose from Yougottawanna on the far turn.

He paid $12.60, $6.60 and $4. Easy Million, who came from last to get the runner-up spot, returned $6.60 and $4.80. Yougottawanna was $5.20 to show.

After Smoocher came Mambo Train, Skipaslew and Best Minister.

(Chart, Equibase)