04/13/2002 12:00AM

Bay Meadows: Tracemark wins California Derby

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Tracemark ($6.20) made a strong move to split horses at the quarter pole and wore down Cappuchino in the final strides to win the $150,000 California Derby at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

Final time for the 1 1/8-mile race was 1:47.93, the fastest of the day in the final preps for the Kentucky Derby.

Tracemark was sixth early in the field of eight, prompting winning jockey Jason Lumpkins to say, "I may have had him a little too far back early. It seemed like everybody went. I had too much cover in front, but I didn't want to make an early move."

Tracemark, trapped inside when he ran fourth in the San Felipe Handicap (G2) in his last start on March 17 at Santa Anita, began to angle out on the second turn.

"I had to check a little on the turn, but there was a little opening at the quarter pole," Lumpkins said. "I had enough horse and took it. I'm glad I did because we just got there."

Lumpkins, who has worked Cappuchino, said he knew that colt was the one to beat.

"I know he's tough, but my horse really responded to the left-handed whip, and we outran him."

Russell Baze said he was closer to the pace than he wanted to be when he was only a head behind pacesetter Goodnews Bay early.

"He wasn't as settled as I would have liked," Baze said. "At the three-quarters pole, he was tugging so hard I was afraid to take too much hold. I thought it would take more out of him fighting him."

Cappuchino relaxed a bit when he got the lead, and Baze said, "He beared down when I asked him, but inside the eighth pole, he flattened out.

The victory was the second in 13 starts for the gelded son of Conquistador Cielo, who earned $82,500 to lift his career earnings to $178,044. He has earned only $15,000 in graded stakes races, a figure used by the Kentucky Derby to determine entrants in case of an overflow field. The California Derby has not been a graded race since 1999.

Owner Ed McGrath said after the race, "There are a lot of options. There are other races around that are good, but I'd love to go to Kentucky. My son (Mark McGrath, lead singer of the group Sugar Ray) is in concert at Jillian's in Louisville the night before the Derby."