08/05/2003 11:00PM

Castro at a price. Could it happen again?

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Jockey Joe Castro got off to a good start at the meet Wednesday with a victory aboard Madison Davis, who was a bit of a price at $12.80.

On Friday, Castro will ride Radon in a six-furlong $25,000 claimer for fillies and mares, and she also figures to be a decent price. Five others signed up for the race, including stablemates Tributetothatcher and Grand Carolyn, Irish Slew, Summer Lite, and Zen Diva.

Radon's seven career wins and $112,395 career earnings are the highest in this field. She has been running evenly in $12,500 starter allowance races of late, but earlier this year won a $20,000 claimer at this distance at Golden Gate Fields.

Zen Diva is the one to beat after winning a $50,000 maiden claimer at Hollywood Park, then running fourth in an allowance race at Pleasanton in her last start June 27. She's had a series of maintenance drills since.

Summer Lite, who hasn't run since pressing a fast pace in a May 30 allowance race, figures to be the speed of the field as she runs for a tag for the first time in her career.

Irish Slew, claimed from a June 29 victory at Pleasanton, steps up after breaking poorly when running third in a $12,500 claimer at Santa Rosa in her first start for a new barn.

The 3-year-old Tributetothatcher faded in a comeback race at this level against her same age group at Solano, but she graduated here at the distance in May. Stablemate Grand Caro Lynn may be better going a mile. She won a mile race for this tag here in April.

Close miss for Castro

Castro narrowly avoided serious injury at Santa Rosa on Sunday when Crown Royalty suffered a fatal breakdown in the Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes.

As the field straightened into the stretch, Castro heard a pop and tried to slow the 2-year-old colt. He heard an even worse sound, a snap, several strides later and knew the colt was in big trouble. "I did my best to keep him up, but I felt like I was on an escalator heading down," he said.

When there was nothing else he could do to help the horse, Castro had to think about himself.

He bailed, escaping under the safety rail just before the colt fell. He avoided serious injury but landed squarely on a knee that had already been surgically repaired.

"I never lost consciousness," he said. "I wiggled everything to see if I was all right, and I was. Then I turned to check the horse. He was trying to get up so I tried to scramble to keep him from running off, but he couldn't get up, and I saw he was badly injured."