By Dennis Miller
You know things are going your way when even your back-up plans are working.
Such was the case for Pleasanton-based trainer Jeff Bonde Saturday at the Alameda County Fair for the 31st running of the $50,000 Juan Gonzalez Memorial Stakes, as Bonde saw Izzy Rules roll to the win, giving Bonde a perfect 3-for-3 record in the thoroughbred stakes at the Pleasanton meet.
The Gonzalez, a 5-furlong test for 2-year-old fillies, was the spot where Bonde and horse owner George Schmitt were going to run Gracie's Action. That is until Gracie's Action suffered a broken sinus when she was spooked during the Fair's firework show on July 3, crashed into a wall in her stall and was unable to run in the race.
The only option for the Pleasanton-duo was to come back with Izzy Rules, who had just broke her maiden on July 2 in her first career start. It was an impressive score, as Izzy Rules charged out of the gate and won by an easy seven lengths.
But to run the horse in the Gonzalez meant coming back in just nine days.
"I don't normally like to do it," said Bonde of such a quick turnaround. "But George and I talked about it and decided we are sportsmen and this is our home town. She's just a champ."
And Izzy Rules became a stakes winner Saturday by nearly repeating her performance from her debut. Jockey Omar Figueroa bolted the horse out of the gate, opening a length on Got an Inch.
The two dueled throughout, with Izzy Rules getting up by two lengths at one point, before finally crossing the line a length in front. The two were five lengths clear of the third place horse Ringing Bernie and almost another three lengths clear of prohibitive favorite Washington Bridge.
"That was our one chance," said Bonde. "The break was the difference. Omar got her out and the other horse had to chase the entire time. The difference ended up being the break."
"I'm dumbfounded," said Washington Bridge jockey Chad Schvaneveldt. "She's normally so quiet in the mornings. It started in the paddock. She was acting up, then washed out in the post parade and acted up at the gate too. It was very disappointing."
Schmitt, who was also celebrating his 66th birthday Saturday, paid $6,500 for Izzy Rules and in nine days easily covered the purchase price and then some, with Saturday's win being worth $31,000 alone.
As for what's next, Bonde and Schmitt had no idea, as less than two weeks ago, Izzy Rules had yet to run a race.
"We're not thinking of anything else right now, but enjoying George's birthday," said Bonde, who also pointed out Schmitt's son George Jr. is in the finals of the rib cook-off Sunday at the Fair. "And now the pressure is all on George Jr. (Sunday)."
One other note for Saturday's feature is the incredible amount the show tickets for the race paid because Washington Bridge finished out of the money, after taking $134,000 in show wagering. Izzy Rules, the second favorite, paid $5.60 to win, but $24.80 to show. Got An Itch, an 18-1 shot, paid $53.20 to show and Ringing Bernie rounded out the show payments at $46.20.
PLEASANTON ARABIAN HANDICAP: In the day's first race, By Golly Sand, the overwhelming favorite, rolled to a win in the 5 furlong race for Arabians.
SUNDAY STAKES: Sunday brings another two stakes to the Fair before racing takes two days off.
The first race of the day is the Pleasanton Mule Championship. The 870-yard battle for the Mule bragging rights at Pleasanton will be paced by Bar JF Hot Ticket who has run off 12 straight wins over the last two years.
Finally, in the 10th race, Bonde's stakes streak will come to an end, as he doesn't have a horse entered in the 41st running of the Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap.
The 1-mile race is for 3-year-olds and up, with the morning line favorite being She's a Lucky Wager out of the Steve Specht barn. Russell Baze takes the call for Specht.
Pleasanton trainer John Anderson will look to keep the Pleasanton stakes streak intact with Congo Kaye, a horse which nearly stole a stakes race in Stockton with a punishing finish.