By Dennis Miller
In a blanket finish Saturday in the Luther Burbank Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair, not even the jockeys knew who won the race.
“I didn’t know,” said jockey Ricky Gonzalez. “I thought I lost and one of the other horses won.”
Well, it was Gonzalez and Lady Valeur that came out on top in the mile-and-sixteenth test on the turf in Santa Rose. Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbreds and trained by Paddy Gallagher, Lady Valeur overcame a tough start to take the race.
Mon Petite ended up second and Central Heat was third in the finish the that was too close to call to the naked eye. The fact Lady Valeur came back after the start was somewhat amazing.
“It all went to (stuff) when the gate opened and I got squeezed,” said Gonzalez., as it appeared the rail horse Elegant Bel came out a bit on the break, forcing Gonzalez to take back.
The young, talented jockey got the horse outside and into the clear, but still sat no better than fifth throughout the first half of the race. Once they got to the final turn, Gonzalez hit the button and Lady Valeur took off.
By the time the horses hit the top of the lane, it appeared the race might be over.
“I thought I was home free,” said Gonzalez.
But he wasn’t.
First Mon Petite, then Central Heat came charging. Mon Petite actually gained an advantage in the lane, but Gonzalez and Lady Valeur battled back, just getting up for the win.
“(Once he had the lead) she pricked her ears and waited for the other horses,” said Gonzalez.
Racing resumes Sunday at 1:15 p.m., with the feature race the 9th on the 10-race card. The Robert Dupret Derby features 10 horses going to post in the mile-and-sixteenth race, also over the turf.