05/23/2004 11:00PM

El Dorado Shooter has trainer confused

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - There is no trainer in northern California who has invested more of his heart into a horse than Cliff DeLima has with El Dorado Shooter.

DeLima bred the 7-year-old gelding, and his wife, Barbara, is the owner. El Dorado Shooter has won 12 of 26 starts and earned $533,527.

"The first thing my wife asks every day when I get home is, How is Shooter?" said DeLima, whose first stop in the morning and last stop at night is at his star's stall.

DeLima is completely mystified by El Dorado Shooter's three races this year.

He finished fifth in Saturday's Saratoga Handicap, once again opening a lead into the stretch before giving up with no fight. He did the same in the Danville Handicap in his previous start, and stopped badly in his comeback race after dueling with Giovannetti for the opening half-mile.

"Fast horses like him are the worst to figure out," DeLima said.

El Dorado Shooter is a son of Man From Eldorado out of Maui Lyphear J, an extremely quick mare of DeLima's. The trainer treats El Dorado Shooter with kid gloves, even running extensive tests several years ago that determined that he had a thyroid problem, which was successfully treated.

"This horse fooled me," said jockey Roberto Gonzalez, who rode him for the first time in the Saratoga after working him for the past two months.

"He had been training so good in the morning. He broke a little sluggish, but then he was fine, running comfortably. He put that other horse away at the quarter pole with no problem, and I thought we were in great shape. But after he changed leads in the lane, there was nothing."

DeLima had tried giving El Dorado Shooter longer, strong gallops before this race and wonders if the two-month layoff was too long.

One thing the DeLimas promise is that Shooter would be retired rather than run in claiming races.

Holiday stakes - one dirt, one turf

Bay Meadows has two stakes for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Fillies and mares are in the spotlight Saturday in the $55,000-added Santa Clara Handicap at one mile. On Monday, the Grade 3, $100,000 Seabiscuit Breeders' Cup Handicap will be held at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Although the Santa Clara will be run on the main track, the lineup may have many familiar faces from Bay Meadows's first two filly and mare route stakes, the Miss America and the Grade 3 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap, both of which were run on the grass.

A B Noodle, Hippogator, Hooked on Niners, and Marwood, who were among the top three finishers in both those races, are among the 14 nominees to the Santa Clara.

Seventeen were nominated to the Seabiscuit, with defending champion Reba's Gold and Shorter, who won the Grade 3 Berkeley at Golden Gate Fields, among the five planning to run.

Shorter will be the highweight at 118 pounds, one pound more than will be his stablemate in Bobby Frankel's barn, Nose the Trade. Frankel has indicated that both will run.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer also says he will run two, Gold Ruckus and Yougottawanna, whom he just re-claimed for $80,000 after losing him for $50,000.

Guidebook looks for third in a row

Guidebook, who has won two straight here, will be seeking a hat trick Wednesday in a $50,000 optional claimer against five rivals, including stakes winner Lucky Sabre.

Guidebook was claimed for $40,000 by trainer John Martin for Robert Bone at Santa Anita on Jan. 9. The pair won Saturday's Saratoga Handicap with Onebigbag, just off a claim.

Guidebook was last in her first start for Martin, 10 days after the claim, and was then freshened for the start of the Bay Meadows meeting.

She has since won a first-level allowance race and an $80,000 optional claimer, and meets easier competition here.

Guidebook has the speed to sit just off the pace, and has taken over on the second turn in her two victories here. She may find herself on the lead Wednesday, although Arizona invader Danziana might try for the lead, and Lucky Sabre has run close to the pace in the past.