03/31/2003 1:00AM

Adapting to a deeper surface


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Will the switch in track surface from Golden Gate Fields to Bay Meadows affect horses when they run on the Bay Meadows track for the first time?

Trainer Armando Lage, who moved all his horses to Bay Meadows this winter because of the hardness of the Golden Gate main track, believes the change in surface does make a difference.

The Bay Meadows track surface is a little deeper than the track at Golden Gate Fields. Originally designed as northern California's wet-weather track, the Bay Meadows strip includes sports grids, tiny bits of man-made sponge-like material that serves as filler on the main track. The sports grids hold up well and keep the track together better in wet weather.

More sports grids were installed last Tuesday, but when heavy winds dried out the track, the top of the track became a bit cuppy, and the track as a whole was deeper and heavier than Golden Gate Fields.

Work times last week were a second or two slower at Bay Meadows but picked up over the weekend.

Lage believes that already being stabled at Bay Meadows will help horses early in the meeting. "It's a plus, especially when the tracks are so different," he said. "Horses have to be fit here."

Because of the new configuration of dates in northern California, Golden Gate Fields has one long meet, while Bay Meadows has two shorter ones split by the summer fair season.

As a result of that and Bay Meadows's smaller, more compact stables, more trainers have been staying year-round at Golden Gate Fields.

"I don't like the small stalls [at Bay Meadows], and everyone's so close together, if someone gets sick, it really spreads quickly," trainer Chuck Jenda said from Golden Gate. "It's easier to ship from here during the summer than from Bay Meadows."

Those who stay at Golden Gate haven't noticed much difference in their horses' form when they switched tracks in the past two years.

Stuttgart sets national record

Jockey Roberto Gonzalez wishes the Golden Gate Fields meeting was still going on. In the final seven days of the meet, he won all three stakes and rode the claimer Stuttgart to a North American record of 49.86 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs on the turf Saturday.

The previous weekend, Gonzalez sizzled to a 42.89 opening half-mile aboard Presidio Heights winning in the Danville Stakes.

Stuttgart, bred in New Zealand, was slow to adjust to North America, said trainer Jeff Bonde. He had "lots of issues and health concerns, including bleeding, when he first arrived," Bonde said.

Until recently, Stuttgart wasn't as quick as his stablemate Santano, a 4 1/2-furlong turf specialist, and didn't do well when tried on the dirt.

Bonde dropped Stuttgart to the $12,500 claiming level, and he has now won twice in a row and is a record setter.

Gonzalez said that if Presidio Heights, Santano, and Stuttgart met at a short distance on the dirt, Presidio Heights would win but that the result might be different on turf.

Golden Gate honors

Lacie Girl, winner of three stakes races before missing a fourth by a nose, was named horse of the meeting and top older female runner for the Golden Gate Fields meeting. She edged I'madrifter, winner of last Saturday's Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap and the Lafayette Handicap, by one vote in the horse of the meeting category.

Lacie Girl's trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, and jockey, Russell Baze, were named top trainer and rider. Hollendorfer had a record 114 victories as he was leading trainer at Golden Gate Fields for the 23rd straight time. He also saddled eight stakes winners.



DATES: 55 days; April 2-June 15, Wednesday through Sunday with special racing Monday, May 26

POST TIME: 12:45 p.m. daily from April 2-20, except April 5 (12:15 p.m.); 1:05 p.m. daily from April 23-June 15; 7:20 p.m. for Friday's Alive beginning April 25

ADMISSIONS: $3 grandstand, $6 clubhouse, $10 turf club weekdays, $15 turf club weekends

PARKING: $4 general, $7 preferred, park-and-lock and valet

MEET HIGHLIGHT: $100,000 California Derby, April 12; Grade 2, $200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile, April 26; Grade 3, $150,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap, May 24; Grade 3, $100,000 Grade 3 Seabiscuit Handicap, May 26; Grade 3, $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint, June 7

ADDRESS: 2600 Delaware Ave., San Mateo, Calif.

INTERNET: www.www.baymeadows.com