03/05/2004 12:00AM

GM looks for happy ending


ALBANY, Calif. - The general manager of Golden Gate Fields, Michael Scalzo, is confident the track can close out its current meeting with a bang.

"Hopefully, with good weather, a strong stakes schedule, and getting back on the turf course, we will finish strong," he said.

The month of March is off to a good start. Santa Anita's big pick six carryover on Wednesday spurred the handle here, with an increase of 54 percent from the corresponding date a week ago. On Saturday, Santa Anita scheduled a $1 million-guaranteed pick six for Santa Anita Handicap Day, in addition to the Magna 5 wager, which has been growing in popularity locally.

Next weekend will be key, with the meeting's two premier stakes, the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Saturday and the Grade 3, $150,000 Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sunday. The El Camino drew 33 nominees and the Golden Gate 15.

Skipaslew, winner of the Gold Rush and Golden Gate Derby here, heads the nominees for the El Camino. Trainer Doug O'Neill, who is looking at the Illinois Derby after the El Camino for Skipaslew.

Wixoe Express, winner of the Tanforan Handicap; Devious Boy, winner of last fall's Oak Tree Derby; Grade 1 winner Ringaskiddy; and the Bobby Frankel-trained entry of Epicenter and Royal Gem top the nominees for the Golden Gate at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.