12/14/2005 12:00AM

Datzig out to prove last no fluke

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ALBANY, Calif. - There are plenty of reasons to bet against Datzig in Friday's Golden Gate feature, a $32,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

He's a 3-year-old who not only is meeting older but also spotting them weight. Three of his five rivals have higher last-race Beyers than he does. The probable favorite, Denied, has more wins on the turf alone - four - than Datzig has in his career, two.

Still, Datzig's trainer, Dan Markle, enters the race with optimism because of Datzig's gritty victory in his turf debut in his last start. On the pace from the start, he refused to cave in down the lane and defeated Harbour Town by a head in a $40,000 starter allowance, paying $79.40.

"I hope it wasn't a fluke," Markle said. "He had a real big effort. I hope the grass is a key to his success. He's still learning what to do."

Markle thinks the Washington-bred Datzig is still maturing and that he might be a different sort on the turf.

"His feet have always been a little tender," Markle said. "At Emerald, he wore pads on his feet because that track is kind of hard. This track is a little softer, and his feet have been good here. We've always been interested in trying him on the turf because the grass is softer."

Datzig is a bit excitable, sometimes leaving his race in the paddock or post parade. But he was much calmer last time before his victory.

"He needs to mellow out a little," Markle said. "He was pretty composed in the paddock and post parade last time. Maybe all the time we've spent schooling him has helped."

Datzig will need a repeat of his last race to be a factor Friday.

Denied has very good speed. A lightly raced 7-year-old, Denied had a solid second-place finish last month in his comeback from a layoff of almost 22 months. He has been given plenty of time since that effort and three works to combat the possibility of a bounce, and he'll have hot apprentice Martin Garcia aboard, which gives him an eight-pound weight advantage on his younger rival.

Winning Stripes, with a pair of races under his belt since a year-long break, should be the threat from off the pace.