07/25/2002 11:00PM

Finley looks Profound at Santa Rosa

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Sometimes, trainer Kent Molinaro has learned, it's better to be lucky than good.

But when you're good and can mix a little luck in, that's even better, as Profound Secret proved winning the six-furlong Sam J. Whiting Handicap at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton four weeks ago.

Molinaro hopes that Profound Secret can do it again Saturday in the $50,000 Ernest Finley Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair. Profound Secret will have six rivals in the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.

An 8-year-old, Profound Secret has won 7 of 48 starts and earned $434,940, including stakes both sprinting and routing.

"I've had some decent horses, but he's my best. He's never run for a tag yet," Molinaro said.

Because he does not have good early speed, Profound Secret needs a little bit of luck when he races, whether it's a speed duel up front or room to run in the lane. With 17 second-place finishes, Profound Secret has not always had things his way.

"He got real lucky the year he won the 3-year-old stakes here," Molinaro said, referring to the 1 1/16-mile James Lyttle. "Mr. Doubledown tried to route, and that set up a fast pace for him."

Molinaro had a choice of running in the Finley on Saturday or in next Saturday's $100,000 Joseph T. Grace Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

"He ran third the first time the Grace was a $100,000 race," Molinaro said. "Because of the way he's been running, I'd rather win for $50,000 than lose for $100,000 - not that he's a cinch."

Profound Secret has run five times this year. He has been far back in two one-mile races. He missed by a nose in the $100,000 six-furlong Phoenix Gold Cup at Turf Paradise on March 9. He was second by a neck in the $35,000, 6 1/2-furlong Fox Sports Northwest Handicap on May 19 at Emerald Downs.

"I don't usually ship for $35,000, but there were a couple more races up there, and I wanted to see if he liked the track," Molinaro said. "We came back, and one foot got hot. I lost some time with him so I decided to wait [for the Whiting at Pleasanton]."

Although the track was speed-favoring for the Whiting, Profound Secret was able to rally from last as Sempai and Fight for Silver, who are also entered in the Finley, set blistering fast fractions.

Saturday's race promises to have lots of early speed, and the track here seems to being playing fairer than the track played at Pleasanton for the Whiting.

"We've got the same kind of group, and if it plays that way, a fast pace and a duel, it works out well for him," Molinaro said.

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