Trainer Jan Booth had to weigh some options before deciding to enter Seahawk Gold in any race at Fairplex Park.
The 5-year-old gelding had shown a fondness for the track, winning the Fairplex Breeders' Cup Stakes as a 2-year old in 1991.
But he had also had been injured in a 12-horse race on the short track last year.
Seahawk Gold's form was the decisive factor. Although he hadn't won a race in more than a year, he had been running against some of the top horses in the nation and Booth decided it was time to drop him a notch in class and give him a chance to win.
It proved to be the right move as Seahawk Gold, under a patient ride by G.F. Almeida, stalked the early leaders, Marmoe and Dusty Screen, took the lead at the top of the stretch and pulled away to beat Gogarty by 4 1/2 lengths in winning the $50,000 C.B. Afflerbaugh Stakes on Sunday.
Dusty Screen, ridden by Fernando Valenzuela, faded to fifth.
Marmoe, a Cal-bred sprinter ridden by the meeting's leading rider, David Flores, used up too much energy when challenged for the lead by Dusty Screen. Marmoe held off Recommendation to finish third.
"I was just following instructions," Almeida said of his winning ride. "He (Booth) told me to stay close, don't lose too much ground, and make my move at the three-eighths pole. When I asked him, the horse responded beautifully. I never used the horse. All I had to do was let him go, and this horse just went."
Despite not having won this year, Seahawk Gold had the sharpest form of any of the six horses in the 1 1/16-mile race.
He ran third to Journalism in the San Francisco Handicap on the Bay Meadows turf course on Sept. 5. He has also run well against Region and Tinners Way.
"He always gives us an honest effort," Booth said. "When we decided to come here, we just wanted to pick the right spot. We were tired of hooking up with the lions."
Booth was extremely confident going into the race.
"This is the best horse I have, by far, and he has been running and training well. He was ready."
Booth, who has a nine-horse stable at Hollywood Park, plans to run Seahawk Gold next at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.
Horse Racing Notes
When the first post time was moved from 2 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, it proved to be a moderate success as a meet record 9,190 turned out at Fairplex Park. The total attendance, which includes the satellite locations, was also a record--22,723. . . . Awe Shucks, ridden by Roxanne Losey, won the $7,500 Pomona Arabian Invitational Handicap, a seven-furlong race for Arabians that turned into a four-horse race when morning-line favorite T C Tomtyr was scratched. Steve Valdez, who was suspended for careless riding during the first week of the meeting, will return today. He is still the leading rider in mixed breeds with four victories.