05/17/2003 11:00PM

Alpenfest victorious in Willard Proctor


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Alpenfest was tested throughout Sunday's $96,975 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park, overcoming a wide trip to win his stakes debut.

Afterward, trainer Mike Harrington insisted that the performance by the unbeaten 2-year-old is only a harbinger of things to come.

"He'll be a much better 3-year-old. He is far from being mature," Harrington said.

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Alpenfest was wide for most of the five furlongs, but closed well late to win by a length over Double Belvedere in 57.97 seconds. Breaking from post 6, Alpenfest raced outside of Double Belvedere and Temecula Wind to the turn through an opening quarter-mile in 21.87 seconds.

Entering the stretch, jockey Victor Espinoza roused Alpenfest, who quickly moved closer to the leaders.

"I was a little worried when Victor started riding him, but he came on," Harrington said. "He's done that in the morning when he doesn't finish, but in a race he finishes. He's not a workhorse, he's a racehorse."

Double Belvedere stubbornly yielded his lead in the final furlong, but held second, finishing 1 1-4 lengths in front of 61-1 Genuine Count. Still a maiden after four starts, Genuine Count was followed by Tricky Flash Flood, Queen's Counsel, This Cats Smokin, Tunder Ponche, Gambling Rent and Temecula Wind.

Alpenfest, a Hennessy colt who has earned $86,205, races for Heinz Steinmann, who teamed with Harrington to win the 1996 Westchester Stakes with Swiss Yodeler. The Westchester Stakes was renamed in honor of Willard Proctor in 2000.