08/06/2004 11:00PM

Destruel goes from canceled to competitive

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Closing day at the Sonoma County Fair on Monday will bring out eight of northern California's fastest sprinting fillies and mares in the $40,000-added Elie Destruel Handicap at six furlongs.

The Destruel was canceled last year when it attracted only four entrants, but this year's field is so solid, it scared some possible entrants away.

Trainer Gil Matos had planned to enter 3-year-old Smoke Break despite her disappointing effort in the Fairfield Stakes at Solano, but decided against it. The reason? How about Christmas Time, Pheiffer, and Channing Way, to name three.

Those horses ran one-two-three in an allowance race at Bay Meadows, then Pheiffer beat Christmas Time in the Vacaville Handicap at Solano.

Trainer Dan Morgan passed the Vacaville with his eyes focused on the Destruel for Channing Way, a multiple stakes winner of $395,282 who will be retired at the end of the year.

Although winless since capturing the Crystal Gail at Turf Paradise on Jan. 12, Channing Way did run third in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint and lost by only a nose in the Cactus Flower at Turf Paradise.

She was fourth behind Christmas Time after setting the pace in the Woodside and was the third nose in the photo in the June 17 allowance race at Bay Meadows.

"My filly's been up here for a while," Morgan said. "She's not a great shipper because she gets nervous when she first gets to a location, but she likes this track. She won here [in 2002], and she has a nice work here."

Channing Way worked a five-furlong bullet in 59.60 seconds last Monday. Morgan doesn't believe that skipping the Vacaville, in which Christmas Time and Pheiffer ran hard races, necessarily helps his filly.

"They're tough mares," he said. "I don't think that race hurt them at all."

Christmas Time broke poorly from the rail in the Vacaville.

"She didn't like getting dirt in her face and didn't want to run," jockey Russell Baze said. "I didn't think it was her day, but she finished well when I got her clear."

Pheiffer's win squared the stakes rivalry with Christmas Time at two apiece in 2004. Pheiffer has won the Richmond and Vacaville, Christmas Time the Soviet Problem and Woodside.

Christmas Time finished ahead of Pheiffer in the allowance race and in the Orinda Handicap, where they were second and third behind Ema Bovary.

"Everything worked just right last time," said Pheiffer's trainer, Donna Elordi. "When she's good, she's awfully good."

My Creed captures Lyttle

My Creed ($12), given a picture-perfect ride by Miguel Perez, won his stakes debut in the $46,245 James F. Lyttle Memorial Handicap on Friday.

"You don't have to do anything, just sit on him and let him run," winning trainer Bob Hess Sr. said.

Perez sat behind Jeffries Bay and Razen Hazen, both of whom were trying two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds.

He was in a good stalking position early and moved even with pacesetting Jeffries Bay after the opening half-mile, with Razen Hazen still a factor along the rail. Although three wide, My Creed had momentum on the second turn and took the lead heading into the stretch.

My Creed won by two lengths over longshot Apollo King in 1:42.87.

Hess said he told Perez not to take back or send, "just let him run comfortable."

"I imagined by the three-eighths pole, he'd be close to the lead," Hess said. "He was where he was without being pressed."

Perez said, "He told me to let him go and run wherever he wanted. He responded really well when I did ask him."

My Creed, who won his last start in a $40,000 optional claimer at Pleasanton, earned $23,535 for his third victory in 10 starts. His career earnings are now $76,640.