08/21/2002 11:00PM

First the Governor's, then Black Ruby


They'll come for the Governor's Handicap and stay for the mules. Or, is it the other way around?

On Saturday at Sacramento, four 3-year-olds and up meet in the $75,000 Governor's Handicap, by far the richest race of the day. But of more interest to many will be the 11th and final race, a mule race that matches legendary Black Ruby against seven others, including her arch-rival, Taz.

Takin It Deep will likely be a heavy favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Governor's. Trained by Gil Matos, Takin It Deep is a nose short of entering the Governor's with a two-stakes winning streak. He closed 20 lengths in the Alamedan Handicap at Pleasanton in July and just missed to Hoovergetthekeys. Three weeks ago, Takin It Deep turned the tables on Hoovergetthekeys, defeating him by 1 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 Joseph T. Grace at Santa Rosa.

Because of Takin It Deep's habit of falling double-digit lengths back early in his races, he is vulnerable in Saturday's short field. Rio's Chase, a 3-year-old facing his elders, has a big shot to steal the Governor's.

Rio's Chase, trained by Bill Delia, was dueled into defeat last out in the Lyttle Memorial at Santa Rosa. But he bounced out to a clear lead in the1 1/16-mile Pleasanton Stakes July 3, and kept on going.

On Saturday, Caesar Bisono will no doubt have Rio's Chase winging it out front, while Joey Castro will try to reel him in late aboard Takin It Deep.

The others in the Governor's are Withholding Info, who has won three straight claiming races, and Capt. Fly Hook, who has been racing mostly on turf.

In the mule race, the $10,000-added California State Fair Open Mule Challenge, Black Ruby carries 136 pounds and spots her rivals a minimum of eight pounds. Nonetheless, Black Ruby, a winner of 47 races from 53 starts, will be odds-on in the 440-yard race.

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