01/08/2005 12:00AM

Fencelineneighbor takes to the slop

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Benoit Photo
Fencelineneighbor and jockey Luis Jauregui stomp through the mud to win the San Gorgonio Handicap on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Fencelineneighbor and jockey Luis Jauregui reached milestones in Saturday's $150,000 at Santa Anita - they both won their first graded stakes.

Fencelineneighbor ($4.80) led throughout 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track, holding off a stubborn Uraib to win by two lengths.

For Jauregui, 35, the win marked the biggest success of his 17-year career. The race was downgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 3 after it was transferred from turf to dirt, but that didn't bother Jauregui.

"It was big for me," he said. "I'll take it."

Fencelineneighbor was the 7-5 favorite in a field of five. Because of the surface switch, Ask for the Moon, Hoh Buzzard, Megahertz, Navaja, Penny's Fortune, and Theater R.N. were scratched.

Jauregui had Fencelineneighbor in front shortly after the start. Fencelineneighbor set fractions of 23.49 and 47.47 seconds, leading by as much as a length on the backstretch.

"I was just trying to sit as quiet as I could," Jauregui said.

Uraib posed a threat on the final turn, but Fencelineneighbor pulled clear to win comfortably, finishing in 1:49.82. At the finish, Jauregui pumped his fist into the air.

The victory marked the richest win for Fencelineneighbor, who has won 8 of 26 starts and $467,257 for owners John and Jerry Amerman and trainer Mike Machowsky. The race marked her first stakes win since the minor Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes at Hollywood Park in November 2003.

Fencelineneighbor was supplemented to the San Gorgonio Handicap on Jan. 4 for $3,000 with the intent of running on the dirt, if necessary, Machowsky said.

Fencelineneighbor is expected to return in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff for California-breds and Florida-breds on Jan. 29.