01/02/2002 1:00AM

Diekenes requires patience

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ALBANY, Calif. - Friday's feature race at Golden Gate Fields will be a learning experience for Diekenes.

A newly turned 3-year-old colt trained by Greg Gilchrist, Diekenes was third in his debut when Arsen, another first-timer, exploded onto the scene with an impressive victory. Diekenes came back to win his second start.

Friday's race is Diekenes's first start around two turns. Four Checker, a winner of two races at a mile, appears the probable favorite in the field of six. Right Angle, re-claimed by Art Sherman from a winning effort at a mile, Olympic Miracle and Orlando's Dream, both coming off maiden wins at a mile, and Golden Peace, who has two sprint wins and is making his mile debut, round out the field.

"I think he has a chance to be a quality animal, but it will be a while until we see him at his absolute best," Gilchrist said of Diekenes. "It will be a learning experience on Friday. If he doesn't win, it's not going to change my opinion of him."

Gilchrist has had to be patient with the colt.

"He has talent, but he's a slow learner," Gilchrist said. "In his win, he didn't switch leads in the stretch."

Given the constant rains that have drenched the Bay Area, the track will probably be muddy.

"An off track will not be a problem," Gilchrist said.

The trainer's biggest concern is the colt's attitude.

Unlike Beyond Brilliant, Gilchrist's good 3-year-old last year, Diekenes isn't into racing. "He's not in the state of mind when he comes over that he has to win," Gilchrist said. "Beyond Brilliant, when he came over, you could see him thinking, 'I've got to win.' "

Turf course may reopen Saturday

With the $100,000 Work the Crowd Handicap scheduled for the turf Saturday, racing secretary Greg Brent is checking with various weather services to determine if the course will be ready.

Brent took Tuesday's $100,000 Lafayette Handicap off the turf before scratch time on Monday. The decision saved Takarian and Fateful Dream, both of whom would only run on the turf, needless trips from Southern California.

"That was easier, although you hate to lose your bigger stakes that are scheduled on the turf," Brent said. The turf course was already "pretty soggy," he said.

Brent was scheduled to take entries Wednesday for the Work the Crowd, a one-mile race for Cal-bred fillies and mares, for the turf.

"It will be raining when we take entries, but weather reports after that are pretty good," he said. "The Internet sources I go to say it will be clear until next week. Golden Gate Fields's weather service also predicts good weather. I will consult with our turf man, but I hope the weather clears."

Krigger comes back

Apprentice jockey Kevin Krigger, returning to action Tuesday after serving a five-day suspension, won three races and finished second twice behind favorites.

Krigger won the first race aboard Booth Bay ($6), the third aboard Petersturn ($10), and fifth aboard Dolly's Hit Lady ($6.80).

Russell Baze also started the new year with three winners, capturing the fourth with Tony's Royalty ($4.80), the sixth with Going Easy ($6), and seventh with At the Dock ($9.80).

Baze and Roberto Gonzalez were both given three-day suspensions for rides Monday. Baze was disqualified from a victory aboard Endearment in the second race for causing interference in the stretch. Gonzalez was set down for his ride aboard De Goddaughter in the fourth race.

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