02/13/2002 12:00AM

Beaumes de Venise a victor


ARCADIA, Calif. - Beaumes de Venise, whose career has been frequently interrupted because of injuries, won a $59,394 allowance race-optional claimer at Santa Anita on Wednesday, beating a field that included graded stakes winners Early Flyer and Skip to the Stone.

Beaumes de Venise finished six furlongs in 1:09.20, holding off a late run by Impressive Grades by 1 1/4 lengths. Rio Oro finished third, followed by Early Flyer, McCordnskuba, and Skip to the Stone. The first three finishers were entered to be claimed for $100,000, but were not taken.

Wednesday's race was Skip to the Stone's 4-year-old debut and first start for trainer Bob Baffert. Last year, Skip to the Stone won the Baldwin Stakes and Bay Shore Stakes. Last summer, he underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his ankles, according to owner Kevin Ward of Greystone Racing Stable.

"We thought he may need a race to tighten him up," Ward said.

Beaumes de Venise ($9.20) was always close to the pace of 21.38 and 43.81 seconds set by Rio Oro. Skip to the Stone was close to the pace for the first half-mile but faded through the stretch to finish 7 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

Early Flyer, the 4-5 favorite, won the Laz Barrera and San Vicente Stakes last year. He had no excuse and finished 3 3/4 lengths behind Beaumes de Venise.

A 6-year-old, Beaumes de Venise has won 7 of 11 starts for a partnership despite fighting problems with his feet and hind end. Trainer Craig Dollase did not have a goal after the race. "It's race-by-race with him," Dollase said. "But he loves to win races."