01/06/2007 12:00AM

Dixie Meister makes all the right moves

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Dixie Meister got the pace set-up he desired in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap on Saturday at Santa Anita. But he had to call on all his strength in the final yards to hold off longshot Armenian Summer, who also benefitted from the contested pace and made a belated run to just miss in a race where the speed collapsed and the stretch runners dominated.

Dixie Meister ($8), sixth in the seven-horse field midway through the 1 1/16-mile race, surged to the lead inside the final furlong. But then Armenian Summer, who trailed early, flew down the center of the track. Dixie Meister held on to win by a nose, with Preachinatthebar another 2 3/4 lengths back in third.

"When he saw that other horse he picked it up again," said David Flores, who rode Dixie Meister.

The disappointment in the race was favored Declan’s Moon, who set or forced the pace (23 seconds, :46.02, 1:10.12) for six furlongs but then faded and finished last under jockey Victor Espinoza.

"He’s just not laying his body down," said his trainer, Ron Ellis. "He needs to get his confidence back. Victor said he thought he was going to win by 10 at the three-eighths pole, and then he just gave up."

Dixie Meister most recently had finished fourth in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, his first start since taking the Californian at Hollywood Park in June. He was timed in 1:43.18 while recording his fifth win in 22 lifetime starts. Dixie Meister, 5, a gelding by Holzmeister, is owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Julio Canani.

Baroness Thatcher holds on in Santa Ysabel

A half-hour before the San Pasqual, Baroness Thatcher took advantage of a perfect, stalking trip and then held off Runway Rosie through the final furlong to win the Grade 3, $108,200 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a half-length. Mistical Plan, the 6-5 favorite, faded after pressing the pace and wound up third, 5 1/2 lengths farther back.

Baroness Thatcher ($8.60) sat third, just outside dueling leaders Seaside Affair and Mistical Plan. She moved to the lead at the top of the stretch, then was fully extended as Runway Rosie threatened. Runway Rosie had to await room behind the leaders on the turn, but had her chance and could not get by.

Baroness Thatcher, a daughter of Johannesburg, completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:44.31. She is now 2 for 5, her wins coming the only two times she was ridden by Garrett Gomez. The Santa Ysabel marked the first start for Baroness Thatcher since she left Kentucky and was transferred to trainer Patrick Biancone. She is owned by Ahmed Zayat’s Zayat Stables.