05/19/2002 11:00PM

Claimed Victoria's Garden wheels back

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - In the best of worlds, trainer John F. Martin wouldn't be running Victoria's Garden in Wednesday's co-feature at Bay Meadows.

It's not that he is worried about the competition. It is just that he would like to have a little time to get to know the 3-year-old filly better.

Martin has an excellent 29 win percentage with first-time starters off claims. He claimed Victoria's Garden for $25,000 on May 8, and has wheeled her back in a $40,000 optional claimer at one mile on the main track. Victoria's Garden is entered for the $40,000 claiming tag.

Martin was attracted to the filly when she won by 6 1/2 lengths a $25,000 claimer at a mile on the main track on April 17.

When she was entered for a $25,000 claiming tag again in a May 8 mile race on turf, Martin made the claim.

"I'd seen her run the time before," he said. "She was so easy, I wanted to claim her. Three-year-olds are a live commodity."

Victoria's Garden has won 2 of 12 starts and has collected a check in every start. She has run twice on the turf, finishing third both times, but Martin plans to keep her on the main track.

"She's by Vying Victor, and he's not really known as a turf sire," he said. "I didn't know if she'd run well in the last race on turf, but I know she runs well on dirt."

With only four rivals Wednesday, Victoria's Garden is sure to pick up a check. She's been competitive with rivals Half Fare and Raelynn's Colony and has finished in front of Glitter Gulch in their two meetings. Blazing Deputy comes north from Santa Anita to round out the field as she makes her first attempt at two turns.

Martin doesn't usually come back this quickly with horses he claims.

"First of all, I watch them at the races, which I think everybody does," he said. "When I get them to my barn, I try to clean them up and look for things they need.

"I like to wait a month before I run anything. I try not to take chances and try not to run horses where they don't belong."

With the current lack of horses in northern California, it becomes tougher to wait for the right spot. And, said Martin, his owners are anxious to run.

Looking at Wednesday's race as a businessman, Martin understands why the owners want to run.

"We're willing to lose her for $40,000," he said. "We picked her up for $25,000 so that would be a nice profit."

Not that Martin necessarily wants to see the filly claimed.

"I think she'll be useful," he said. "Even if we drop her back to $25,000, she'll be live, and the purses are good."

In Wednesday's feature, old rivals Timber Baron and Yazzero, who actually ran one-two in a race here last Oct. 21, Meet Me In Dixie and Proceed With Care come north from Southern California to meet Swim Away and Old Mizzou in a one-mile $50,000 optional claimer on the main track.