10/04/2002 11:00PM

Bay Meadows: Stoney closes strongly

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Surveying the field for the $100,000 California Sprint Championship at Bay Meadows, trainer Ruben Cardenas told jockey Russell Baze to keep Stoney off what he expected to be an extremely fast pace. He never expected to be last early, however.

Stoney ($4.40) rallied in the stretch, catching El Dorado Shooter inside the sixteenth pole, and pulled away for a 1 1/2-length victory in the six-furlong race for Cal-breds. Winning time for the six furlongs was 1:08.44.

"I was worried when he was that far back," Cardenas said. "I thought he'd be a couple lengths behind."

Instead, Stoney was 4 1/2 lengths back and only a head in front of closer Radar Contact after being forced to steady early.

"The inside horse came out, and my horse bobbled a little," said Baze, who found himself last five strides out of the gate.

Baze decided not to rush Stoney and was still fourth, trailing El Dorado Shooter by 4 1/2 lengths after the opening half-mile, which was run in 43.80 seconds. El Dorado Shooter opened up in the stretch but could not hold off Stoney late.

Stoney won his fourth straight after being claimed for $20,000 on May 31 at Hollywood Park. Stephan and Cyndi Weeks won a seven-way shake for the 4-year-old Stoney, who has now won 5 of 13 starts and earned $254,235.

He will be pointed to the Cal Cup on Nov. 2 at Oak Tree.