03/23/2008 11:00PM

Bold Chieftain wins March Madness

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Bold Chieftain ($5) wore down pacesetting Now Victory late to win the $70,980 March Madness Handicap at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

Now Victory, under Frank Alvarado, bounded to the front early, setting brisk fractions of 46.24 for a half-mile and six furlongs in 1:10.01 as he pulled clear of his four rivals by five lengths down the backstretch in the one-mile turf race.

Now Victory maintained his lead into the stretch when Bold Chieftain and jockey Russell Baze loomed up outside of him and Bold Chieftain's stablemate, Pass the Heat, put on pressure from the rail.

Now Victory continued on, discouraging Pass the Heat, but Bold Chieftain was in full flight, pulling even and then winning by one length in 1:34.71, tying the course reord set by Position's Best in 1987 when time was only recorded in fifths.

Pass the Heat was third ,another two lengths back, holding off Putmeinyourwill by a neck.

"I was glad Now Victory was that far in front of us because that mean he was going at a good clip," Baze said. "If he had only been a length in front of us, it would have mean he was going to be tougher to get by.

"I was a little concerned, but when I reached back and hit him the first time, he grabbed the bit and started running."

Winning trainer Bill Morey Jr. said, "All I asked of Russell was to him on his toes coming out of the gate and see what was setting up. I didn't want Frank guzzling him down too early. Now Victory scares me. You've got to outrun him. Fortunately, today we did.

"I'm glad to see Bold Chieftain take to the turf here. We were thinking about going to Texas for the Texas Mile, but we'll stay here for the Bay Meadows Handicap," said Morey, referring to the $125,000, 1 1/16-mile turf race on April 26

The victory was the ninth in 17 starts for Bold Chieftain, a Chief Seattle homebred. The Cal-bred earned $43,700 to lift his career earnings to $553,025.