Gonzalez double keeps title race neck and neck
Hastings round-up by Nigel Reid
Variety is the spice of life, they say, and there was certainly something to entertain all race fans at Hastings on Sunday, with seven competitive races shared between seven different trainers, seven different sets of owners and six different jockeys.
The feature event of the afternoon went the way of Slew’s Da Boss who, if the odds (he returned $25.30 to a $2 stake) are to be believed, caused a minor upset in the $24,000 “never won three” allowance contest over six-and-a-half furlongs.
Odds can be deceptive, however, and that probably applies to the Mel Snow-trained four-year-old. The gelded son of Cause To Believe never runs a bad race and, while he may not have actually won since he took a maiden special weight on his debut back in 2017, he has been mixing it consistently with tough opponents.
Slew’s Da Boss, running in the colours of Mel Snow, Doug Corsan and Len Houweling, was ridden to victory in great style by Alex Marti, who was celebrating his first win since returning to Hastings to ride following a couple of quiet years back east.
It was only a matter of time before a rider as talented as Marti passed the post first, and he made a perfectly timed challenge. Stalking the three leaders along the backstretch, Marti launched his bid four wide at the turn into the straight and drove his grey mount into a decisive lead.
Marti had gone close in the opener, a mile-and-a-sixteenth Maiden Special Weight, but had to settle for second place aboard the Phil Hall-trained Irish Charlie after the pair had no answer to Amadeo Perez and, making his seasonal debut, Chef.
Trainer Dino Condilenios had thought enough of Chef to run the son of Congrats in last year’s BC Derby and, even though this maiden victory was at the ninth time of asking, he is another who has been highly tried and was not winning out of turn. It’s no easy task to win over eight-and-a-half furlongs on a debut but, now the seal has been broken, Goonshow Stables’ runner will surely be worth following.
Perez had to settle for just a single winner on the day, but he currently remains locked in battle with Enrique Gonzalez for leading rider honours and Gonzalez answered his rival’s win in the very next event, taking matters into his own hands at the top of the stretch and coming away to win by four-lengths aboard Transplant for owners Gift Horse Stables and trainer Deirdre Bell.
Bell’s string has made a fine start to the season. Transplant was winning for the second time and the trainer has hit the board four times from just nine runners this term.
Most trainers dream of training horses as consistent as Transplant. The son of Sir Gallovic might be a modest sort but, since his stewardship was taken over by Bell last August, the four-year-old has finished no further back than third in any of his eight starts.
Transplant was the first of two winners on the day for Gonzalez, who showed all his considerable strength and skill to land the nightcap, a $12,500 claiming contest, aboard the Steve Henson-trained Betathanaboyfriend.
Encouraging the three-year-old for most of the six-and-a-half furlong journey, Gonzalez still had plenty to do when launching a four-wide challenge at the home turn. However, by the time they reached the wire, the son of Mass Market, who is owned by Willow Creek Farms and Fabio Chiesa, was travelling best of all and looked good value for the half-length winning distance.
Henson is another handler in form. He saddled four runners at the weekend and none of the quartet finished out of the frame.
Glen Todd’s retained rider, Denny Velazquez, is also a major contender for leading rider honours this season and, deputizing for Richard Hamel who had stood himself down after being unseated by his mount Postman in the second race, Denny took the fourth contest on the card aboard You Got This.
The three-year-old Gio Ponti filly, who has the most distinctive thin white blaze and pretty head, was winning first time off the claim for her new owner/trainer Cindy Krasner.
There was only a single claimed horse all afternoon and that followed the third race when runner-up Union Obsession, who was in for a $4,000 tag, joined the Mark Cloutier barn for her new owner, Marty Miller.
The six-and-a-half furlong contest was won in confident style by Antonio Reyes and Mousey Mousey. Close observers of such things may have been a little surprised that the four-year-old Majestic Warrior filly wasn’t herself claimed. This was her third straight win at Hastings for trainer Rob Gilker and owner Edgar Smith since she returned from Santa Anita and, wrapped up by Reyes inside the final half furlong, she was not flattered by her seven-length victory.
Scott Williams is another rider enjoying a terrific start to the new season, and he struck for the eighth time this term when partnering Great Blake to take the fifth race, a six-and-a-half furlong $6,250 waiver-claiming contest, for owner/trainer Kerri Raven. The five-year-old was winning at the first time of asking for Raven after she claimed the New York-bred son of Greatness last month.
With some good-sized fields, Sunday’s card had a more competitive look than the previous day and that seemed to be reflected in the on-track handle which, at almost $71,000, was a short-head more than the same fixture 12 months ago. The gross handle of more than $400,000, meanwhile, also stood up well to the 2018 equivalent.