11/20/2006 12:00AM

Big fields standard this holiday week


SAN MATEO, Calif. - The Thanksgiving holiday week could be a banner one at Bay Meadows, starting with a strong Wednesday card that consists of 69 runners and superfectas in all but one of the eight races. Sixty-one runners are entered on Thursday, for an 11:15 a.m. first post and eight races on the holiday card. Friday's nine-race card drew 104 entries, including also-eligibles. Only one race has fewer than 10 entrants, and it drew nine.

"We're not getting the Southern California horses in the numbers we usually get because everyone down there wants to try the Cushion Track and new six-furlong turf chute at Hollywood Park," racing secretary Tom Doutrich said. "But we just got 20 new horses from Canada and we're hopeful of adding a few more."

Wednesday's card includes what appears to be a stakes-quality 2-year-old filly allowance race at six furlongs. It is a prep for the Dec. 16 $55,000-added Bay Meadows Debutante Stakes, which will be run at the same distance.

The race on Wednesday is a rematch for Quite a Rush and Sego Lily.

The two fillies debuted on Sept. 9, and Sego Lily won while the 2-5 Quite a Rush rallied for third. Sego Lily sat just off very fast fractions, rallied three wide, and pulled away for an easy three-length victory over Glorification, who was three-quarters of a length in front of Quite a Rush. Glorification, by the way, makes her second start in Wednesday's fourth race.

Quite a Rush was a wire-to-wire seven-length winner in her second start, while Sego Lily ran third in the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

"This is only her third start, and she faces another tall task," said Sego Lily's trainer, Keith Bennett.

Sego Lily is a half-sister to the multiple stakes winner Thresher, who won the Cavonnier as a 2-year-old. Bennett compares Sego Lily to Thresher because of her willingness, he said, "to take anything on."

She took the worst of it in the Anoakia, racing wide and between rivals. She stuck her head in front at the quarter pole and lost a photo for second, finishing seven lengths ahead of the fourth-place finisher.

"I think she's had enough experience now to do what the rider wants," said Bennett, who will probably try having her stalk the pace early in the speed-laden race.

Meanwhile, trainer Greg Gilchrist is pleased with Quite a Rush's improvement in her second start. "Quite a Rush's first time was at five-eighths," he said. "She was a little confused and never figured things out until reaching the stretch. If that race had been three-quarters, she easily would have been at least second."

Gilchrist also saddles the speedy On Duty in the race.

Baze 11 wins shy of all-time record

Russell Baze picked up seven winners last week, including the Autumn Leaves Handicap aboard Somethinaboutlaura, who is scheduled to run in the $100,000 California Distaff Turf Championship here on Dec. 9 before running in the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 27. All of Baze's winners last week are trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who had 10 winners for the week.

Going into Wednesday, Baze had 9,519 career victories, 11 shy of Laffit Pincay's all-time record of 9,530.

Cause to Believe likely to be scratched

Fourteen horses are entered in Friday's $55,000-added John Henry Handicap at one mile on the turf, but only 12 will be permitted to run. In the field are the stakes winners My Creed, Capitano, Bonfante, McCann's Mojave, Court's in Session, Railroad, and Cause to Believe.

Cause to Believe, winner of this year's El Camino Real Derby and California Derby, was scheduled to make his turf debut, but Hollendorfer, who trains him, said he will likely scratch after drawing post 12.

Area racing will miss Ray Straub

The death of Ray Straub last week left a big void in the northern California racing community. Few other people in racing have Straub's passion, expertise, and willingness to work for the good of the sport.

Straub, 53, was working as a clocker at Bay Meadows and timed horses on the morning he died. He was the northern California handicapper for the Racing Times and had worked in the press box at both Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows. He had a featured role on a weekly televised racing show in the 1980's, served as a racetrack consultant on the Eddie Murphy movie "Metro," and was a regular handicapping guest on Sam Spear's radio show and racetrack seminars. He was even a substitute race-caller.

Brusque and never afraid to speak his opinions, Straub was liked and respected by horsemen for his honesty, fairness, and unqualified concern for horses. He was used regularly to escort newsmen and camera crews around the tracks and also helped coordinate race-day interviews with winning trainers after stakes races for the publicity department.

Lage becomes U.S. citizen

Trainer Armando Lage was one of 1,300 people who became citizens of the United States last week. Lage is a native of Mexico.

"People who don't think the United States is the best haven't lived anywhere else," he said. "This is the best country. Go anywhere else. It's not pretty."

Apprentice wins first ride

You can't get off to a better start than 22-year-old apprentice Eulices Gomez did on Saturday, when he rode the first mount of his career, Neiman the Saint, to victory in a $16,000 claimer for trainer Keith Craigmyle.

"It was great," Gomez said. "I was just hoping no one was coming. I knew I was in front quite a ways, but I just kept riding."