11/08/2003 12:00AM

Burning still hot

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Moscow Burning, claimed for $25,000 at the San Mateo County Fair at Bay Meadows in August, won her third consecutive start and her stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 California Cup Distance Handicap.

Ridden by Ryan Fogelsonger, Moscow Burning ($14) ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 2:00.91. Always near the front, Moscow Burning took the lead in early stretch and pulled clear to finish 2 1/2 lengths in front of 17-1 Ardum Relaunch.

"At the half-mile pole, I knew I was on a ton of horse and was just hoping that no one else was running better than me," Fogelsonger said. "Down the lane, I thought there's no way they're going to catch us."

Valentine Dancer, the 7-5 favorite, led on the final turn but faded to finish third in the field of 10.

Moscow Burning races for Dallas Van Kempen, Jeff Mariani and Mike Nentwig and trainer Jim Cassidy. A 3-year-old, she won two allowance races in October at Santa Anita. Van Kempen credited previous trainer Casey Doyle with suggesting the claim. Overall, Moscow Burning has won 6 of 8 starts and $170,565.