10/17/2005 12:00AM

Baze's list of stakes mounts continues to grow

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ALBANY, Calif. - For a rider, there's nothing better than having a good stakes horse. Unless it's having two or three.

Russell Baze had four winners at Bay Meadows on Sunday to finish the 33-day meeting with 56 victories. He earned his 34th career championship at Bay Meadows despite missing three days with bruises suffered in a spill.

He also had three winners Saturday, including a victory in the Bay Meadows Juvenile Stakes aboard Cause to Believe.

Baze, of course, is sitting pretty with the mount on likely Breeders' Cup Sprint favorite Lost in the Fog.

But after riding Cause to Believe to his second straight stakes victory, Baze is happy to have some up-and-comers in the bullpen, including Frisco Star, a stablemate of Lost in the Fog who set a track record at Santa Rosa in his debut.

Cause to Believe has a strong stretch kick that served him well sprinting but was evident again Saturday in the one-mile Juvenile, his first try around two turns.

Cause to Believe has given Baze a couple of anxious moments as well as exhilarating ones.

In the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa, he didn't like being hit in the face by dirt and seemed to back out of the running until Baze got him outside in the clear. He then blew past rivals to win easily.

In Saturday's Juvenile, he was between two rivals in the second flight behind maiden Crafty Ang, who set a solo pace. Crafty Ang's rider, Roberto Gonzalez, tried to steal the race by opening up near the quarter pole, and Baze had some concerns because Cause to Believe again seemed to be losing ground.

But once Baze hit the colt, Cause to Believe's rapid acceleration made up three lengths from the quarter pole to the eighth pole. He stuck his head in front and continued to open up down the lane.

Crafty Ang, although beaten 2 1/2 lengths, widened his margin late in the race over third-place finisher M.J. Pkay in an excellent effort. He's been a bit of a head case for trainer Jeff Bonde, who seems to have solved some of the problems.

Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Cause to Believe, was as pleased with the race as Baze was.

"The horse showed a new dimension, running between horses and laying a little closer," Hollendorfer said. "He can do just about anything."

"He wasn't bothered being between horses at all," Baze said. "He wasn't bothered by the horses close to him in Santa Rosa. He just doesn't like dirt in his face."

Hollendorfer's problem with Cause to Believe is that there are no more two-turn stakes for 2-year-olds in northern California this year, with only a sprint offered at Golden Gate Fields.

"I'm going to shop around and find the best spot," Hollendorfer said. "If they want to improve racing in northern California, they have to strengthen the 2-year-old program. We have a huge number of horses from around here that have been competitive in big races around the country."

Peter Tunney, Golden Gate's general manager, said he intends to rectify the absence of route stakes for 2-year-olds next year.

Western Sovereign heads for Cal Cup

Another northern California 2-year-old worth watching is Western Sovereign, trained by Ed Moger Jr. Western Sovereign won the Harvest Handicap at Fresno on Thursday, beating Don Jaun Con by three lengths - the exact margin Moger had predicted when asked about the race on the preceding Monday.

"I got a little concerned when he slipped back a bit before the quarter pole," Moger said. "You often see horses drop out of it there. But I think he was just changing leads, because he got right back into contention, and when he got to within a head, I thought he would win."

Moger would like to try Western Sovereign in the Cal Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6 at Santa Anita.

Good field in opening-day feature

Wednesday's opening-day card at Golden Gate Fields is a good one.

The feature is a $40,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-old fillies, featuring A Lil Alimony, who won on opening day at Golden Gate last fall; Sizzling Sarah, who beat her by a head at Santa Rosa; and Shasheena and Hittheflagstick, both of whom have won two straight.

Also on the card are a $40,000 starter allowance for 2-year-old fillies and a $32,000 claiming turf sprint for fillies and mares.

Athlete, singer, airman, trainer

Pat Pastore, who died Oct. 10 at age 86, had many claims to fame.

Playing in a semi-pro industrial league before World War II, he hit a home run off Satchel Paige in an exhibition game.

He was a decorated airman in the war, earning his nickname "the General," and was also an accomplished singer who performed with George Liberace's band.

Pastore began training horses on the East Coast after leaving the Air Force and headed west in the early 1950's, training in northern California for 45 years. He was best known for training Little Duke, whom he acquired for $150 and turned into a multiple stakes winner. The popular Little Duke is the only horse buried at Bay Meadows.

* Hollendorfer won his 31st consecutive Bay Meadows training title, saddling 36 winners, 12 more than Art Sherman. Moger was third with 16.

At a glance: Golden Gate Fields

RACING SCHEDULE: 46 days - Oct. 19-Dec. 19. Dark Mondays and Tuesdays, except Dec. 19

POST TIME: 12:45 p.m.; 11:15 a.m. Thanksgiving

HIGHLIGHTS: $100,000 Tanforan Handicap, Oct. 23; $100,000 Miss America Handicap, Oct. 30; $100,000 Silky Sullivan Stakes (Grade 3), Nov. 5; $100,000 Forty Niner Handicap, Nov. 25

ADMISSIONS: $3 grandstand, $4 clubhouse, $6 top of the stretch, $10 turf club (weekdays) $15 turf club (weekends)

PARKING: $4 general; $7 preferred, valet

LOCATION: 1100 Eastshore Highway, Albany, CA

PHONE: (510) 559-7300

INTERNET: www.goldengatefields.com