08/02/2002 12:00AM

Gilchrist confident, but not overly so


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Trainer Greg Gilchrist cringes when someone suggests he has a sure thing with Taraval in Sunday's $40,000-added Redwood Empire Stakes at the Sonoma County Fair.

"Obviously, I'll be the favorite," he said of the likely betting on the 5 1/2-furlong race for


On paper, Taraval looks as strong a favorite as Black Ruby, who will try to avenge last year's loss to Taz in the $12,500 Santa Rosa Mule Championship.

Of the 11 who were nominated to the Redwood Empire, he is the only one to win a straight maiden race. All the other winners nominated to the race won maiden claiming races, and three of the nominees were maidens.

Taraval is the only multiple winner and stakes winner in the race, having captured the Malcolm Anderson Stakes at Bay Meadows and the Everett Nevin Alameda County Futurity in his past two starts following a maiden victory.

Taraval, obviously, has talent, but Gilchrist is content to keep him as close to home as possible.

"Past experience taught me that. I've been fortunate to have trained a few good horses," said Gilchrist, perhaps best-known for Soviet Problem, who ran second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Gilchrist said that if the Redwood Empire hadn't been on the schedule, he would have taken Taraval to Del Mar for Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes there. But, he said, "I don't see any reason to go to someone's yard to play when you've got a race right here at home. This seemed the logical choice."If you can keep winning, you'll build confidence in your horse, and, if he's that good, the day will come when you go somewhere."

On paper, Taraval doesn't look as if he'll be challenged.

"I don't ever want to get that confident," Gilchrist said. "They don't run races on paper."

Taraval's biggest problem might be to keep from winning in wire-to-wire style.

Taraval has been a good gate horse, breaking alertly in each start. What Gilchrist likes, though, is his willingness to rate and his ability to finish strong.

He said that Chad Schvaneveldt, who had ridden Taraval to his two stakes victories, "has done a helluva job with this horse," Gilchrist said. "He's done a lot in the morning.

"We knew he could run right off, so we started teaching him to rate right away, working him behind horses.

"The last couple he broke so well, he could have taken the lead, but Chad has eased him back."

Sunday's 5 1/2 furlongs looks as if it will be even more to the advantage of Taraval, a California-bred son of Bold Badgett out of the Reb's Policy mare Two Kids.

Eventually, Gilchrist will be looking at two turns.

"You have to cross that bridge some day," he said. "They don't even have that kind of race right now, so I haven't thought about that."