02/18/2003 1:00AM

Apprentice rides rail to first win


ALBANY, Calif. - Many apprentice riders get the first victory of their career by racing wide and avoiding all possible problems.

Not Marcia Stortz.

Stortz, 25, rode her first winner at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, hugging the rail with Gifted Athlete ($12.20) in a six-furlong $3,200 claimer.

Stortz said Gifted Athlete's trainer, Reina Gonzalez, told her to stay on the rail a little off the pace, and to make her move in the stretch.

"It played out pretty much like she said it would," Stortz said. "Rubin's Pride was in front, but I know he gets out. My horse is a brave horse, and went right through along the rail."

Stortz, who graduated from Colorado State with a degree in equine science, got her first victory with her seventh mount. She also has a second and two thirds. Stortz got her jockey's license about a month ago.

Her father, Mike, a retired Marine and NASA research pilot, and mother, Christine, were at the track for her win.

"They support me," Stortz said. "They love coming out to watch races."

Stortz, a Cherry Point, N.C., native, grew up in Maryland and later in the San Francisco Bay Area in Cupertino. She has been around horses virtually all her life, competing in hunter-jumper events. Her younger sister, Melissa, has exercised horses in Kentucky, Florida, and New York, and would also like to become a jockey.

Stortz's love of horses led to her choice of a major in college, and after graduating she began training hunter-jumpers.

But a friend who owned Thoroughbreds suggested she become an exercise rider, and Stortz was immediately hooked. She has been an exercise rider since May of 1999, although she had to take time off after tearing a ligament in her knee.

Stortz says she still gallops or works at least 10 horses each morning, seven days a week. She works primarily for Art Sherman and Dennis Ward, who helped her get her first rides, at a bullring track in nearby Salinas.

"That was interesting," she said. "You have cows sticking their heads out onto the track on the first turn."

Stortz said she and jockey Francisco Duran often galloped horses together and that she listened to what Duran had to say about riding. Duran became northern California's top apprentice in 2002 and is currently second in the jockey standings.

Red Packet goes for seven

Red Packet puts his six-race win streak on the line Thursday in a $25,000 claimer at one mile. It is the highest claiming tag for which he has run.

Red Packet began his win streak in a maiden $12,500 claimer on Sept. 4. Leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer claimed him that day and jumped him to $20,000, and he won by seven lengths.

When Hollendorfer dropped him to $12,500 for his next start, young trainer Bill Morey put in a claim. Red Packet has won three straight, all at the $20,000 level, since the claim.

The longest northern California win streaks in the past decade were eight, by A Matter of Style (1996-97) and Barry Chancy (1992).

Debonair Joe headed for Maddy

Debonair Joe, who won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in December, two months after being claimed for $12,500, is a confirmed starter for Saturday's $100,000 Ken Maddy Sprint for Cal-breds. Four other stakes winners, Echo Eddie, El Dorado Shooter, Giovannetti, and Radar Contact, are scheduled to run. Ride and Shine and Waingarth are possible runners.

* BnD Chase Thoroughbreds has donated seasons to stallions Globalize and Richly Blended to the Glen Ellen Vocational Academy, a northern California Thoroughbred retirement operation. Those interested in buying the donated seasons can contact the academy at (707) 527-8092.

* Fifteen-year-old Media Plan, a star for the Oaktown Stable of rap star Hammer, took fifth in an event competition Sunday, the Galway Downs Winter Horse Trials. It was the highest finish by a maiden in the event. Media Plan raced until he was 11 before being retired with nearly $600,000 in earnings in 1999. He had been a hunter before his debut in event competition.