11/05/2004 1:00AM

Brent grinds out tough fall meet


SAN MATEO, Calif. - The Magna era at Bay Meadows ends Sunday, when the fall meet closes.

The Bay Meadows Land Company has put together its own racing team to run the facility in 2005, ending its lease agreement with Magna.

The Bay Meadows fall meet is always a difficult one, coming on the heels of the summer fair circuit with its six-day weeks and opening with an overlap in Sacramento. It also faces an overlap with the Fresno fair meeting.

Racing secretary C. Gregory Brent, appointed less than one week before the meeting started, managed to fill races and avoid the embarrassment of postponing and canceling stakes, as has happened recently in northern California.

Brent signed up 77 horses for Sunday's final card, averaging better than eight per race and providing superfecta wagering in seven of the day's nine races.

Starspell, second in each of his two starts at the meet following a brief freshener, and Our Top Gun, who won Oct. 3 off a year layoff, form a powerful entry in the day's feature, a $50,000 optional claimer at one mile on the turf.

Brent had been the racing secretary at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, and the fair circuit for several years. He was replaced at Bay Meadows last fall and then at Golden Gate by Tom Doutrich. Doutrich resigned in August, just before the start of the Bay Meadows meet.

"This is one of the tough meetings every year," Brent said. "Del Mar is winding up and has some of our horses. Sacramento attracts horses with its trainer bonus contest. For a few weeks, those horses can't run, and then Fresno starts and takes away some of our lower-level horses. [Emerald Downs] went late this year toward the end of September. We had some unseasonable rain that shut down the turf course, and the inability to use the turf hurts a lot."

Brent, who will work in the racing office at Golden Gate Fields, said he thinks racing is on the upswing now.

"Things are starting to pick up now," he said. "The Fresno horses are back, and Seattle horses are here. Going into Golden Gate, we're in pretty good shape if the weather cooperates."

Repp picks up first win

Katie Repp, a 22-year-old apprentice, looked like a seasoned veteran when she guided Ladyformal to a three-length victory over Intrepid Gem in Thursday's second race. But it was, in fact, her first career victory, coming with her 10th career mount.

"That was so much fun," said Repp. "Now that I've done it, I can't wait to do it again. I kept looking back. I kept thinking, 'I know one of those horses is going to come up and catch me.' That happened to me twice, getting nailed near the wire."

Repp moved Ladyformal ($8.80) inside of dueling leaders Take Issue and Spring Daisy. They opened up, and never were seriously threatened in the 5 1/2-furlong $6,250 claiming race for fillies and mares.