01/12/2008 12:00AM

El Gato Malo romps in San Rafael

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ARCADIA, Calif. - El Gato Malo is making a career of getting his own way.

In Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 San Rafael Stakes, El Gato Malo ($6.80) had a perfect trip in the one-mile race for 3-year-olds, winning by 6 1/4 lengths over the Cushion Track and setting a track record of 1:33.37.

Ridden by David Flores, El Gato Malo was fourth early behind a remarkably quick pace of 22.25 and 44.34 seconds before sweeping past Massive Drama, Talk of a Cat, and Sierra Sunset to take a commanding lead in the final furlong.

"I saw there was speed, but there was more than I thought," Flores said. "When he blew by those horses, he was playing around. I was enjoying the ride."

Indian Sun, last of six for the first half-mile, finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of Massive Drama, the 3-2 favorite who led by a length at the eighth pole. Sierra Sunset, Talk of a Cat, and Overbid completed the order of finish.

Massive Drama led early, but could not shake clear of Talk of a Cat and Sierra Sunset.

El Gato Malo, by El Corredor, is unbeaten in three starts. He beat maidens by 5 1/2 lengths in a six-furlong race at Hollywood Park on Nov.o18 and won the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 15.

Owned by the West Point Thoroughbreds partnership, El Gato Malo has earned $160,200.

"He's the real deal," trainer Craig Dollase said.

Dollase said that El Gato Malo would be considered for the $200,000 Sham Stakes over 1 1/8 miles here on March 1.

San Pasqual: Zappa completes climb

The ex-claimer Zappa ($28.60) scored the first stakes win of his career in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap, setting the second track record of the day, 1:39.58 for 1o1/16 miles over Cushion Track.

Winning trainer John Sadler said the gelding's rise is a result of his liking of synthetic tracks.

"He really loves them," Sadler said. "He's been much better on the synthetic than the dirt or the turf."

Ridden by Joel Rosario, Zappa stalked pacesetter Well Armed through a modest pace of 23.98 and 47.50 seconds. Zappa took the lead in the final furlong and pulled clear to win by a length.

Well Armed held second, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Heatseeker in the field of seven older horses.

Zappa, the longest shot in the field, has won 4 of his last 5 starts. He was claimed four times last year for values ranging from $20,000 to $32,000. Claimed for $32,000 by owner Gary Barber at Bay Meadows last April, Zappa has won 11 of 27 starts and $325,220.