02/21/2003 12:00AM

Bold Mango's turf mark looms large

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ALBANY, Calif. - A freshened Bold Mango takes on six rivals in Sunday's feature at Golden Gate fields, a $100,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles. The race is one of two interesting turf races on the card.

Bold Mango has a win, three seconds, and a third in six turf starts. He has had a brief freshener since he rallied strongly for third behind Cappucino Kid and Surprized in a similar race on a muddy main track on Jan. 11. He found himself farther back than usual early in that race.

The 4-year-old Surprized is also in this race. A stakes winner at age 2, he is winless on the turf, but all four of his starts on grass have come in stakes. His best effort was a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Derby. He was defeated by three-quarters of a length after setting the pace.

In the the other turf race, a $32,000 claimer at 4 1/2 furlongs, course specialist Santano will be the one to catch. The field also includes stakes-winning Beyond Brilliant, who takes another drop on the claiming ladder and makes his turf debut.

Red Packet has nose for the wire

Red Packet may never win a Grade 1 race or even a stakes race, but the blue-collar runner is growing in popularity at Golden Gate Fields. Red Packet won his seventh straight race Thursday, while meeting his toughest competition to date in the $25,000 claimer. He defeated favored Italian Bar Road by a nose in the one-mile race.

The win didn't come easily, but wins seldom do for Red Packet, a 4-year-old gelding who was bred by Robert and Barbara Walter of Cavonnier fame.

He stumbled a step or two out of the gate and grabbed a quarter. He trailed to the second turn, swung out wide entering the lane, and then was forced to go a little wider as Italian Bar Road moved out seeking a clear path. The two dueled to the wire with Red Packet winning a head bob, just as he had in two of his previous three starts.

"You can't teach that or train that," trainer Bill Morey said.

Four of Red Packet's victories have come since Morey claimed him for owner Gene Johnson. "They've all got quirks and all have problems and he has his share," Morey said. "But he always shows up on race day."

"He's just a great race horse," said Ron Warren who has ridden Red Packet in six of his wins. "When he gets to other horses, he seems to have just a little bit extra to get by them."

* Kevin Krigger and Jose Rivera Jr. will serve three-day suspensions next weekend for their rides aboard Sudden Glory and Irish Pleasure, respectively, in Monday's fifth race. Both were cited for "failure to make a proper effort to maintain a straight course." Rivera's mount bothered Krigger's, then Krigger's mount, who won, came out to bother runner-up Domingo Juan and was disqualified.

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