Jerry Hollendorfer has precious little missing from a remarkable resume compiled over more than three decades as a trainer.
He is a member of racing's Hall of Fame, one of five trainers to win in excess of 6,000 races, and has more training titles in Northern California than Bret Favre has comebacks.
Through Saturday, with 26 victories and 17 racing days remaining, Hollendorfer was giving Bob Baffert a run for the money as Santa Anita's training leader, sitting just five behind, even though he has started 44 fewer horses and is winning at 27 percent.
Victories in the Santa Anita Derby and in the world's most famous race, the Kentucky Derby, would fill remaining voids in the 67-year-old's training history. If the fates allow, they could be realized this year with a 3-year-old gelding named Hear the Ghost, who registered an upset at nearly 6-1 when he rallied to overtake favored Flashback and win the San Felipe Stakes by a half-length under Corey Nakatani on March 9.
Next up: the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 6, with every trainer's ultimate goal beyond that, the Grade I, $2 million Run for the Roses at 1 ¼ miles on May 4.
Hear the Ghost worked towards those goals at Betfair Hollywood Park Sunday morning, going six furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:13.60 under Nakatani in 1:13.60. “Very nice,” is how Hollendorfer termed the move. “He galloped out strong as usual. He'll have a little blowout and we'll be all set for the Santa Anita Derby.”
Critics point out that Hear the Ghost benefited from Flashback's costly pace duel in the San Felipe, but Hollendorfer is inclined to let judgments fall where they may. Whether Hear the Ghost's San Felipe win was an aberration remains to be seen.
“All the horses that are on the 3-year-old trail have to prove themselves every single race,” Hollendorfer said. “Those races are more under the microscope, so everybody's going to look closer at those. If you don't so something right, they criticize you.
“I've been down that road before, so hopefully, I won't give them anything to criticize Hear the Ghost.”
Hollendorfer is confident the chestnut son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper can successfully get the nine furlongs of the Santa Anita Derby.
With 50 points to date under the Kentucky Derby's new qualifying system, Hear the Ghost is among the leaders, with seemingly enough to make the Run for the Roses.
“We'll see,” Hollendorfer said matter-of-factly. “If our horse takes us to the Derby, we'll go, but if he doesn't, we'll go somewhere else.”
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