Pleasanton Mile preview – Northern California’s Richest Fair Circuit race

By Dennis Miller

It’s all come down to Sunday, the final day of racing in the 2023 Alameda County Fair horse racing meet.

It is on the final day of the meet the inaugural running of the Pleasanton Mile, the richest race in the history of the Northern California Fair circuit, will take place. It is the 8th race on the closing day, 10-race card and has a post time of 5:15 p.m.

The purse is $150,000 with $90,000 going to the winner.

A full field of 10 runners will go post and what a loaded field it is. Let’s look at every horse in the field by post-position order.

1) Tripoli (John Sadler trainer, Rene Diaz jockey, 9/2): A multiple Grade I stakes runner, this one captured the Grade I Pacific Classic in 2021, the same year he was seventh in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic. This year he is 2-for-3 in hitting the board and most recently he was third in the $100,000 All American at Golden Gate Fields behind two others entered here. Prefers to come from off the pace. A win here and the horse becomes a millionaire. Not what he once was but still a talented runner and a major player here.

2) Midnight Mammoth (Craig Dollase, Assael Espinoza, 30/1): There is a lot of speed here in another Southern California shipper. Last year at this time the horse was running in Pleasanton in an optional claimer. Now, he has run in two Grade II races this summer with the most recent being the Triple Bend at Santa Anita where he finished sixth after pressing the pace. His most recent effort was an allowance effort at Santa Anita where he dueled, then weakened to finish third.

3) Katonah (Doug O’Neill, Tiago Josue Pereira, 8/1): Does not have graded races in his resume but has been running very well. Likes the stalking style with the ability to sit right off the pace if needed or bide his time 4-5 lengths off the pace. His most recent race was a win in an optional claimer where he got up late to win by a neck in his first lead of the race.

4) I’mgonnabesomebody (Bill McLean, Alexander Chavez, 4/1): Is Northern California’s top entrant. The horse has won both starts over the Pleasanton track. This year he has a win and a place in two starts. Ran second in an allowance race in January then went to the shelf until late May. He came back to win the All American at GGF, sitting right off the pace until moving in the lane and winning by over a length. Will be a speed factor here either setting or sitting just off the pace.

5) Kennebec (Ruby Thomas, Brayan Pena, 15/1): Was in the Jonathan Wong barn until the trainer was recently suspended for medication violations. Has 11 starts on turf including the last eight starts. Is another that likes to sit off the pace and close in the lane. I think there are too many other horses that prefer the same move and have a little more gas in the tank. His last race was a methodical win on the turf at GGF where he gradually moved from fourth early in the race up top to a two-length win.

6) Il Bellator (Jose Bautista, Alejandro Gomez, 5/1): Could be sneaky here. Last year he was fourth in the El Camino Real and won the $100,000 California Derby. This year he has run twice. He was third in the Grade III San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate in April, then was fourth in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita. Only one start on the dirt, a fourth in the Shared Belief at Del Mar last September. If the horse takes to the dirt he could make some noise.

7) C Z Rocket (Peter Miller, Evin Roman, 5/2): Here is your favorite and deservedly so. The big question is the distance as this runner is a world class sprinter and a mile may be too much distance. He has twice run in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint, finishing seventh in 2021 and second in the most recent running, beating Jackie’s Warrior.  Earlier this year he went to the UAE to run in the Grade I Dubia Golden Shaheen where he finished eighth. His most recent start was the Grade II Triple Bend at Santa Anita where he was second, overcoming a slow start. Has won over $2 million is purse money but handling the distance is what this all comes down to today.

8) American Farmer (Steve Sherman, William Antongeorgi III, 10/1): Finished second in the All American after having a troubled trip but closing with a flourish to edge Tripoli for second, finishing just a length back of I’mgoingtobesomebody.  Yet another horse that will be sitting off the pace and hoping to make the big run down the lane.

9) Breakfast Ride (John Sadler, Edwin Maldonado, 12/1): This is a solid but unspectacular runner. The last two starts came in Grade II events, the San Antonio and San Pasqual, at Santa Anita where he finished fourth, then seventh. May try to get out front with early speed like he did in a string of races last year, taking two in a row at Del Mar. He will need everything to go right here.

10) Tesoro (O J Jauregui, Armando Ayuso, 8/1): This has not been a great dirt horse, hitting the board twice in four starts, with a second and a third. Has two starts this year, running eighth in the Grade III San Francisco Mile, then coming back to win an optional claimer at GGF. Both races came on the turf. Showed some speed successfully last year and tactic he may want to use here to stay out of what figures to be a crowded group in the middle of the pack.

How does the Mile play out: There are plenty of horses that want to chase the speed and make their moves in the lane, so the question is, who jumps out and gets after it? Not even C Z Rocket who was arguably the top sprinter in the world for a while goes out early. I’mgonnabesomebody figures to get out quick and there is a good chance Midnight Mammoth goes with him and he appears to be quicker. If they both go 22 seconds for the first quarter, they will be cooked late. If I’mgonnabesomebody can sit just off the pace and go through the quarter around 24 seconds, he could be sitting good. Tripoli and C Z Rocket will be sitting in that 3-7 group both looking for first run. C Z Rocket will make his move as they turn for home, but I am thinking the mile is too much and I’mgonnabesomebody is going to be somebody, holding off the brigade of SoCal closers to win the inaugural running of the Pleasanton Mile, touching off a big party on the apron of the track for Billy McLean and his bevy of owners!