05/10/2004 11:00PM

Con Quixote guns for third straight

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Con Quixote goes for his third straight win in Thursday's feature race at Bay Meadows, a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs.

Con Quixote was claimed out of his last start for $50,000 by trainer Chuck Peery.

"He's a neat old horse, an old warrior," said Peery, who won him in a three-way shake.

Con Quixote has won two straight, both at this level, since finishing fourth in the Ken Maddy Sprint Handicap for California-breds in February. He has won 8 of 21 lifetime starts and earned $214,688.

Con Quixote has early speed, although Twentythreejaybird, who drew outside of him, will probably be on the lead, as he was two starts back when he and Con Quixote last met.

Con Quixote should be able to get the lead by the quarter pole. Then he'll have to hold off Havana, Spy Me Not, Winning Stripes, and Operatic.

Winning Stripes and Operatic, two 4-year-old colts, could hardly have chosen a tougher spot to make their 2004 debuts than Thursday's race.

Operatic has never finished worse than third in five career starts.

Art Sherman, who used to train Con Quixote and now trains Operatic, is not predicting victory for Operatic, who is still working his way through his conditions. But he believes Operatic might well have a big year. Operatic is making his first start since Sept. 20.

"He's bigger and more mature," Sherman said.

Bill Morey Jr. saddles Winning Stripes and his entrymate Havana, who is coming off a first-level allowance victory. He owns a part of both runners.

Winning Stripes was second in the Golden State Mile and the Half Moon Bay Handicap as a 3-year-old, and will be making his first start since Dec. 13.

While Operatic is a sprinter, Winning Stripes has done his best running around two turns, and has won on both turf and dirt.

"The ideal spot wasn't available, but he's worked well and worked good Sunday morning," Morey said, referring to a 47.20-second half-mile at Golden Gate Fields. "We'll try to see after a long layoff if everything's okay, but we're not giving him a race."

Winning Stripes will likely be last early, but with an honest pace to run at, he could be moving up in the lane.

* Jockey Dennis Carr is expected to return to riding next week after suffering a hairline fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand in a spill on Sunday. Jose Alferez bounced back from a different spill on Sunday, when his horse went through the inner rail on the turf course, and rode again later on the card.