12/13/2003 1:00AM

Golden Gate Fields: Skipaslew wins Gold Rush Stakes


ALBANY, Calif. - Skipaslew ($19.80) raced wide on both turns but finished well to win the $7 Gold Rush Stakes on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields.

Favored The Herc, the lone speed in the race, took the lead as expected in the one-mile race for 2-year-olds. Jockey Matt Garcia slowed the speedster down through 23.23, 46.19 fractions. He couldn't hold off Skipaslew in the lane, as Skipaslew won by a neck in 1:36.12. O.K. Mikie closed well for third another two lengths back.

"He's not easy to ride," winning rider Eric Saint-Martin said. "He was green, but he can run. He was getting out in the lane so the last few strides I stopped hitting him left-handed."

Winning trainer Doug O'Neill said Merv Griffin claimed the horse for $50,000 from a maiden race July 9 at Hollywood Park because "We thought he'd be competitive with runners for the same price so we took him."

Skipaslew graduated in his next start for a $62,500 tag at Del Mar and has now won two stakes. He won the 1 1/16-mile Gateway To Glory at Fairplex in September.

O'Neill was fearful the race was over in the opening quarter but credited Saint-Martin for staying active on the colt to keep him in the race.

Garcia had no excuses for The Herc. "All in all, he race super. He relaxed and was laying it down for me in the lane."

Skipaslew earned $48,800 to lift his lifetime earnings to $111,000 with three wins in seven starts.