Saturday didn't start out as the best of days for jockey Chad Schvaneveldt.
Leaving his house in Pleasanton at 5:30 a.m. on the way to work horses at Golden Gate Fields, Schvaneveldt hit a deer just 100 yards after he got on to Interstate 680, racking up a decent amount of damage to his car.
But as the day went on, things got a lot better and ended with a bang as Schvaneveldt guided home Miss Pleasant to a win in the 42nd running of the $50,000 Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap in Pleasanton.
"My day ended a lot better than it started," said Schvaneveldt, almost relieved. "It was a good way to end it."
The 1-1/16 mile race on paper seemed to set up as a battle between the speedy Victoryasecret and late-closing Christmas Ship, the defending champion in the race.
Schvaneveldt talked with Miss Pleasant trainer Richard Mandella, who works out of Southern California, by phone before the race with the instructions pretty straightforward.
"He said to let her run away from the gate," explained Schvaneveldt. "We knew there was a couple of speed horses in there and I wanted to tuck in right behind them."
Which is exactly how the race played out.
Victoryasecret and Little Bug set the pace early, as expected, with Schvaneveldt tucking in right behind. Christmas Ship, also as expected, sat in the back looking for quick pace on the front end to set up her closing kick.
By the half-mile mark of the race, Little Bug was steadily falling back, leaving Victoryasecret out front cruising along. What was a honest pace early, settled into a pace Schvaneveldt was looking for.
"It took a while to get her settled into the dirt," explained Schvaneveldt. "But (the pace) backed up a little to my liking. I was very comfortable the entire way."
As they turned for home, Schvaneveldt had Miss Pleasant in second, with Russell Baze having moved up to third on Christmas Story. Victoryasecret still was in the lead, but Schvaneveldt knew there was a lot in the tank.
"I felt like we were loaded with a half-mile to go," said Schvaneveldt. "I was more worried about (Victoryasecret) because of her speed that (Christmas Ship)."
But it wasn't as easy. As Miss Pleasant would put on the pressure, Victoryasecret kept fighting, with jockey Luis Martinez keeping his gutsy mare in the lead.
"I thought I had her plenty of times," explained Schvaneveldt. "But (Victoryasecret) kept digging in. That shows you the type of horse she is."
Finally, Miss Pleasant made the pass in the lane and held on for the win. Victoryasecret was second, with Christmas Story running third.
"Inside the 16th-pole," said Schvaneveldt about when he knew he had the race. "Once I got by her, I knew she wasn't coming back."
Miss Pleasant is owned by Diamond A. Racing Corp.