For jockey Frank Alvarado, the outcome of Sunday's 41st running of the Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton was decided well before the race started.
And Alvarado indeed knew what he was talking about, as Christmas Ship cruised home to an easy in the 1- mile feature event Sunday at the Fair.
"When I saw the (entries)," said Alvarado, when asked when he knew he had the race won. "I swear. I looked at it and said, 'I've got this.'"
Christmas Ship, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Erik Amlie, George Todaro and Hollendorfer, had been running in Southern California, but did win in Pleasanton with Alvarado aboard last year in an optional claiming race.
"I knew she liked the track," said Alvarado. "I asked Jerry if I could ride the filly and he said no problem. I worked her last week and she's doing very good right now. "
Confidence going in is one thing, but you still have to run the race, which Alvarado did, almost flawlessly.
"Jerry told me to just ride the race," said Alvarado. "Be ready for the break, take her back if you need to. I knew I just mostly had to be patient. "
Which is exactly what Alvarado did, getting out alertly, then settling in the middle of the pack behind the front-running Welken, who is out of the Kent Molinaro barn.
Welken set the pace throughout the first three-quarters of the race, but as they turned for home, Alvarado took command with Christmas Ship and came home, driving to a two-length win.
She's a Lucky Wager finished a hard charging second after sitting last through most of the race, with Welken fading to third.