05/30/2005 12:00AM

Busted deal turns into windfall for Roberts

Fair Grounds
Wimbledon is scheduled to return in summer.

ALBANY, Calif. - A business deal that fell through may be one of the best things that ever happened to locally based trainer Tom Roberts.

Roberts was trying to sell a Real Quiet filly earlier this spring and offered her to Houston horse owner James McIngvale. McIngvale sent a representative, Gary Patton, to California to look at the filly, but decided not to buy her. But Patton came away impressed with Roberts's operation during his three-day stay, and he relayed his observations to McIngvale. McIngvale invited Roberts to Houston to discuss business, and Roberts now trains 10 horses for McIngvale.

Among the McIngvale horses in Roberts's barn at Golden Gate Fields is last year's Louisiana Derby winner, Wimbledon, who is on the comeback trail after suffering a tendon injury. He had his first timed workout, a three-furlong drill in 36.40 seconds, on May 22. The work was the third best of 24 at the distance that day.

The horses McIngvale sent to Roberts instantly upgraded the quality of the trainer's stock.

"He's sent me the type of horses I never could have touched," Roberts said. "You go down the list and it's amazing."

While Wimbledon is at least two months from his first start, Roberts already has given McIngvale an allowance victory here with Cooperation on May 21, and only bad racing luck kept Cashmula from winning a maiden race on Saturday. Roberts also has a handful of 2-year-olds for McIngvale.

McIngvale's goals are to win a Breeders' Cup race or a Kentucky Derby, Roberts said. He sent horses to Golden Gate, where the competition is a bit softer than at the nation's top tracks, in the hopes that Roberts can win races with them immediately and build up their confidence. The plan is to get the horses to their peak and then, McIngvale and Roberts hope, run in major stakes.

"At some point, you have to tackle the big boys," Roberts said. "I'm a big guy about believing in the mental part of the game. When a horse believes he can win, it gives him confidence. It's hard to give your all after you've done that and had your head jerked off three or four times."

And the 3-year-old Real Quiet filly who is responsible for Roberts and McIngvale joining forces? She hasn't even run yet.

"She's huge," Roberts said of the filly, a half-sister to graded stakes winner Truly a Judge named Truly Quiet. "We're taking it slowly with her."

Big fields, but not that big

Golden Gate Fields carded two races with 14-horse fields on Saturday, but the fields were reduced to 12 when several jockeys objected to running 14.

The clerk of scales, Paul Nicolo, conducted a poll of riders earlier in the week on running 14 horses in a race, and none objected. But on Saturday several riders said it would be dangerous to have so many horses in a race, and two of the horses were scratched.

Sean Greely, the Golden Gate racing secretary, had come up with the idea to run 14 horses. The reason, he said, was that larger fields usually result in more betting.

Post position made the difference

Bonfante, who won the Ken Maddy Sprint Stakes on Saturday, and Lunachick, who won the Vallejo Stakes on Sunday, both were coming off losses caused, in part, by traffic trouble. Both had clean trips over the weekend, and their trainers credit better post positions for the smooth runs.

Bonfante had finished second in a Golden Gate allowance race May 15, a race in which he was shuffled back after breaking from the rail. Lunachick also had traffic problems after breaking from an inner post in her previous race, the April 24 Winners Foundation Stakes at Bay Meadows. Over the weekend, both horses broke from outer posts.

"Post position is so important in this game," said Steve Miyadi, trainer of Lunachick. "It's reflected more in the horsemen's views than the odds, but I know I'm always happy when I draw outside in a sprint."

Bonfante will probably run next in the Sam Whiting at Pleasanton, said his trainer, Steve Specht. Miyadi said he may send Lunachick to Hollywood Park.

Baze has eye on 10,000

Golden Gate Fields paid tribute to Russell Baze on Saturday. Baze, the second-winningest jockey in history, started this week six wins shy of 9,000 for his career. Baze trails only the retired Laffit Pincay Jr. (9,530) in wins.

"I'm lucky that every day I get to go to a job that I love," said Baze, who admitted his goal is to win 10,000 races.

Baze said he is especially excited about riding Lost in the Fog, who is unbeaten in six races, all under Baze.

"It's like I'm a groupie and he's a rock star," Baze said.

There was another tribute at Golden Gate on Saturday, for longtime horse owner Glenn Kjelstrom, who died on New Year's Day.

Four weeks after Kjelstrom's death, Red Warrior, a horse he bred, won the Sunshine Millions Sprint. Kjelstrom owned hundreds of horses over the years and had his first winner with Lovely Lydia at the Ferndale fair in 1974.

Kjelstrom's son Kevin said that 200 friends, relatives, and business associates of his father came from across the country to Golden Gate on Saturday.

* Imbethtoo and Ugotadowhatugotado, both of whom have not raced for more than a year, return to the races in Wednesday's feature, a $62,500 optional claimer at six furlongs. Among their opponents is Mahalo, who is returning from a seven-week break.