Gentle Romeo Runs to Victory

Santa Ynez Valley-Raised Horse Wins Santa Anita Race

Gentle Romeo led all the way in his victory in the seven-furlong sprint at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Wednesday, October 8.

In a week when the stock market values plummeted, I went and bet on a horse race, figuring that if I’m going to lose money, I might as well have fun doing it.

I had a special interest in the seventh race at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting last Wednesday, October 8. Entered in the seven-furlong sprint, valued at $55,860, was the four-year-old gelding Gentle Romeo.

Gentle Romeo was featured on the cover of The Independent eight months ago. I wrote the story about his progression from a newborn foal at Buellton’s River Edge Farm in 2004 to a late-blooming colt who won two of his first three races last year. At the time the story was printed, Gentle Romeo was recovering from a leg injury and recently had been gelded-a procedure that meant his racing future lay entirely on the track, not in the breeding shed.

“He’s got a beautiful way of moving,” said Clifford Sise, who has taken over as Gentle Romeo’s trainer. “He was a tough and nervous horse when John Shirreffs [his former trainer] had him. Gelding calmed him down.”

Sise worked with Gentle Romeo for months before he was deemed ready to return to the races for the first time since he won a sprint feature at Hollywood Park last November. Marty Wygod, who owns the horse’s dam and sire (Quiet Romance and Benchmark) as well as River Edge Farm, wanted to be sure he was sound. Wygod shares ownership of Gentle Romeo with his wife, Pam, and daughter Emily.

“You always feel pressure from Marty,” Sise said. “He’s patient, but he likes to win.”

As the horses approached the starting gate last Wednesday, some gamblers at the Earl Warren Showgrounds satellite betting facility checked them out on the video screens. Gentle Romeo, wearing No. 2 with jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, appeared to be a bundle of energy as he moved in rapid baby steps.

Gentle Romeo was the third choice in the morning line. His 67 percent winning record was impressive, but such a long time had passed since his last appearance, it was as if he were starting all over again. Gamblers must have liked what they saw in the post parade, dropping his odds from 7/2 to 3/1. But one man at Earl Warren was dubious.

“I bet the Two horse gets beat,” he said. “You know why? He’s had surgery. They made him into a gelding.”

“That should help him,” countered a Gentle Romeo supporter. “He’s only four years old. Now he can run until he’s 10. He’s got a better jockey, too.”

In 80 seconds, Gentle Romeo rewarded his backers. He surged to the front shortly after leaving the gate and led all the way. All Man, a five-year-old gelding, rallied down the stretch, but Gentle Romeo held his speed as Gomez urged him to the finish line-gently. “Garrett hardly had to tap him,” Sise said. The winner paid $8.40 for a $2 bet and earned $36,600 for his owners. The favorite, Men Only, finished out of the money in fourth.

Gentle Romeo’s time of 1:20.32 was the fastest seven furlongs so far on Santa Anita’s new synthetic track.

“His gallop-out was great,” Sise said. The trainer hopes to race Gentle Romeo again next month at Hollywood Park. Meanwhile, he is training a higher-profile Wygod horse, Idiot Proof, for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup races. Idiot Proof-so named because Wygod insisted his employees keep things “idiot-proof” in his health-related businesses-is another four-year-old offspring of Benchmark. He finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year and is expected to run the Turf Sprint this time.

The Breeders’ Cup consists of 14 races that will be held at Santa Anita on October 24 and 25, with purses totaling $23.5 million. It lost some of its glamour when Big Brown was retired because of an injury this week. But the races will go on, full of pleasant and unpleasant surprises.

ATHLETES OF THE WEEK: Dos Pueblos High volleyball player Carly Wopat, who turned 16 with her twin sister Sam this week, had a strong all-around match in the Chargers’ thrilling four-game victory over the Santa Barbara Dons. Bishop Diego quarterback Anthony Martinez ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the Cardinals’ first win of the year, 33-22, over Grace Brethren. Also honored at the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon were two Special Olympics Athletes of the Month, softball players Jesse Rosentrater and Dan Hauck.

GAMES OF THE WEEK: It’s the start of league play in high school football on Friday, featuring cross-town rivals Santa Barbara versus Dos Pueblos (7 p.m. at San Marcos’s Valley Stadium), and the voracious Lions of powerful Oaks Christian against Bishop Diego (7:30 p.m. at La Playa Stadium).

Top Sporting Events: October 16-26

Thursday, October 16

High school girls golf San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, Glen Annie GC, 3 p.m.

High school girls tennis San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, 3 p.m.

High school boys water polo San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.

High school girls volleyball Oaks Christian at Carpinteria, 6 p.m.

College women’s volleyball UCSB at Cal Poly, 7 p.m.

Friday, October 17

High school football Santa Barbara vs. Dos Pueblos at San Marcos stadium, 7 p.m.; San Marcos at Ventura, 7 p.m.; Oaks Christian at Bishop Diego, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.; Carpinteria at Oak Park, 7:30 p.m.

College women’s volleyball Moorpark at SBCC, 7 p.m.

College women’s soccer Pacific at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.

College men’s soccer UCSB at Cal Poly, 8 p.m.

Saturday, October 18

College cross country SBCC Invitational, Shoreline Park, 10 a.m.

College men’s water polo UC Irvine at UCSB, 12 p.m.; UCSB alumni game, 2 p.m.

High school football (eight man) Laguna Blanca at Cate, 2 p.m.

College women’s volleyball Vanguard at Westmont, 3 p.m.

College football SBCC at Santa Monica, 7 p.m.

Sunday, October 19

Running Cancer Center of Santa Barbara 5K Walk/Run and 10K Run, Montecito Union School 8 a.m.

College women’s soccer UCSB at Cal Poly, 5 p.m.

Monday, October 20

College women’s golf SBCC hosts Western State Conference No. 7, Santa Barbara GC, 10 a.m.

Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Cafe, 12 p.m.

Tuesday, October 21

High school girls tennis Santa Barbara at San Marcos, 3 p.m.

High school girls golf Santa Barbara at San Marcos, Santa Barbara GC, 3 p.m.

High school boys water polo Santa Barbara at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.

College men’s soccer Hancock at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22

High school girls volleyball Santa Ynez at Dos Pueblos, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 23

High school girls golf Dos Pueblos at Santa Barbara, Montecito CC, 3 p.m.

High school boys water polo Ventura at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.

Friday, October 24

High school girls volleyball Tournament of Champions at Santa Barbara High.

College women’s soccer Moorpark at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 11 a.m.

College men’s water polo UC San Diego at UCSB, 3 p.m.

High school football Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 7 p.m.; Santa Barbara at Buena, 7 p.m.; Bishop Diego at Nordhoff, 7:30 p.m.; Carpinteria at Oaks Christian, 7:30 p.m.

College women’s volleyball Cal State Fullerton at UCSB, Thunderdome, 7 p.m.; Ventura at SBCC, 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 25

High school girls volleyball Tournament of Champions at Santa Barbara High.

High school football (eight man) Dunn at Laguna Blanca, 1 p.m.; Cate at Thacher, 2:30 p.m.

College women’s soccer San Diego Christian at Westmont, 1 p.m.

College men’s soccer San Diego Christian at Westmont, 3 p.m.; UCSB at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m.

College women’s volleyball Cal State Northridge at UCSB, Thunderdome, 7 p.m.

Sunday, October 26

College women’s soccer UCSB at UC Davis, 12 p.m.


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