11/07/2007 1:00AM

Golden Gate's Tapeta era begins

EmailALBANY, Calif. - Brand new surface; same old result.

The Tapeta era got under way at Golden Gate Fields on Wednesday with leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and leading rider Russell Baze combining to win the first race of the meet, a one-mile $40,000 starter allowance, with Devil Cielo. He rallied and caught pacesetting I'monmywayhome, winning by three-quarters of a length in 1:36.28.

Hollendorfer said his first impression of the surface was positive.

"At least we know a horse can sit back off the pace and win," Hollendorfer said after the race. "One win or one loss doesn't mean a lot. I don't really look on time as all that important. I liked that the field was compact, and horses seemed to handle it."

Baze and Devil Cielo came back clean despite running last for much of the race.

"I like it," Baze said of the surface. "I was pretty sure I would. I've worked enough horses over it.

"It's nice because you don't have anything coming up at you. You don't have to worry about horses climbing because there's nothing hitting them."

Before horses left the walking ring - which also has a Tapeta surface - Golden Gate Fields general manager Robert Hartman cut a ceremonial ribbon as fans lifted a champagne toast to the new surface, which was installed over the summer and completes the synthetic transformation of California's major racetracks. Golden Gate follows Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania as the second track in the United States to use Tapeta as its racing surface.

Michael Dickinson, inventor of the surface, rushed to the track after the first race to check with the jockeys when they returned after the race. He said he was worried that the track might be too fast.

"We'll slow it down a little bit tomorrow," he said, adding that he would have Golden Gate harrow the track a little deeper for the Thursday card.

Sunny Wager won the second race, a $4,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles. He stalked the pace under Jose Martinez-Campos and won in 1:43.40.

Like Devil Cielo, Sunny Wager had his first experience on the surface Wednesday. Both runners had been training at Bay Meadows.

"It's way too early to make any judgments," said Sunny Wager's trainer, Steve Miyadi. "My horse figured, and he won. Horses seem to finish well here."

In the third race, the first sprint of the meet, R Mattie also stalked the pace and won in 1:10.71 for six furlongs under Kyle Kaenel.

Hollendorfer said that as the meet progresses, trainers will have to see whether they need to change their training methods from the old dirt track.

"Guys will have to adjust," he said. "We're in a new era."