12/15/2007 12:00AM

El Gato Malo hugs rail in Gold Rush win

EmailALBANY, Calif. - Heavily favored El Gato Malo cruised to an impressive victory in the $75,000 Gold Rush at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, stamping himself as a horse to watch in 3-year-old stakes next year.

El Gato Malo ($2.80) rated nicely before making a strong inside move leaving the quarter pole to win the one-mile race by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:37.62. Late-running Bert's Law finished second, winning a three-way photo over pacesetting Many Rivers and Cafe Tortoni.

"I think he's a very good horse," winning jockey Pat Valenzuela said. "I can't wait to see what he'll do when I ask him. He was a little on the bit early but manageable."

El Gato Malo broke sharply, but Valenzuela tucked him in behind Many Rivers, Nsync Lynx, and Deputy Bertrando early. Trapped on the inside, Valenzuela had no option other than to make a movealong the rail as he ranged up on leading Many Rivers on the second turn.

"There wasn't much room, but he wasn't afraid of the rail," Valenzuela said. "Many Rivers drifted out a bit so I was able to get in the two path. I didn't ask him for much. I just showed him my stick because he's not running at home."

Winning trainer Craig Dollase was pleased with the effort.

"We threw a lot at him," he said, referring to the El Corredor gelding's first time around two turns and having had to ship north from Hollywood Park. "The end result was what we looked for."

A $95,000 yearling purchase, El Gato Malo earned $45,000 to improve his career earnings to $70,200 for West Point Thoroughbreds.

Dollase said that he would look for a mid-January race for El Gato Malo but did not preclude coming back to run in the Jan. 27 California Derby.