11/25/2002 1:00AM

Fog City Willy fond of local ground


ALBANY, Calif. - It's just a typical race to fill a program - a $12,500 claiming sprint.

But the fourth race Wednesday provides the drama, excitement, and anticipation of a stakes race as Fog City Willy and De Witt meet.

The field of nine is much deeper than those two 6-year-olds, but the two consistent horses epitomize racing in their will to win.

Fog City Willy, a 6-year-old gelding, has won 10 of 32 starts while earning $261,220. He has been claimed four times in his eight starts this year and won a race for each of the five barns he's run for this year.

Trainer Garland McAlester claimed Fog City Willy for $12,500 from his last start on Oct. 4 at Fresno, a race he won.

"He's a horse who likes to win races," said McAlester, who had been training at Los Alamitos after spending three years training in the Middle East for the presidents of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

De Witt, a 6-year-old horse, has won 10 of 23 starts and $153,040. He was reclaimed by Fatman Stables and trainer John F. Martin for $16,000 in an Oct. 20 race at Bay Meadows where he rallied to miss by a neck.

"The owner wanted to claim him back," said Martin, who originally claimed him for $16,000 on Sept. 2 and saw the horse finish second in a $25,000 claimer and win a $16,000 claimer for him before being claimed away.

Fog City Willy is 3 for 4 at Golden Gate Fields and has contending speed, like De Witt, who will make his first start at Golden Gate.

Horses running at the $12,500 level can obviously have physical problems, and these two are no exception.

"He's not easy," Martin said. "He's got issues to deal with. He's a really good horse with a lot of back class. He just has problems he deals with.

"I like this kind of horse. I find it a challenge to work with them."

McAlestar is bringing Fog City Willy back for the same $12,500 claiming price for which he was claimed. Martin is dropping De Witt but could still end up showing a profit even if De Witt is claimed.

"I don't think we want to be butting heads," McAlestar said, "but that's part of the game."

Support retired Thoroughbreds

The Glen Ellen Vocational Academy's annual stallion auction, a major fund-raiser for northern California's only nonprofit racehorse retirement foundation, begins Saturday and runs through Dec. 7.

The full list of available stallions can be found at www.glenellenfarms.com/geva. Further information is available by calling (707) 527-8092 or e-mailing gef@vom.com.

Funds raised go to support the 27 rehabilitating and retired racehorses at GEVA.