11/08/2003 1:00AM

Green Team sizzles


ARCADIA, Calif. - The former claimer Green Team continued his meteoric rise in the California sprint division with a stakes-record performance in Saturday's $150,000 California Cup Sprint Handicap, one of 10 races on the 14th California Cup card at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Green Team settled outside of a contested early pace that produced wicked fractions of 21.25 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 43.69 for a half. He moved past the weary leaders a furlong out and went on to score by two lengths in the sensational time of 1:07.98 for six furlongs on the fast main track.

The time was a Cal Cup Sprint record, eclipsing the former mark of 1:08.28 set by Answer Do in 1992.

Summer Service finished second, a half-length in front of the late-running Trapper. Men's Exclusive, the popular 10-year-old gelding, finished last in the field of seven.

Green Team was competing in mid-level claiming races this summer when trainer Jeff Bonde claimed him for $32,000 out of a race at Solano in northern California.

Sent south to Del Mar, Green Team blossomed overnight. He won a claiming race, and an allowance race, then tuned up for the Cal Cup by finishing second in the California Sprint Championship Handicap at Bay Meadows on Oct. 4.

"He's been a Cinderella horse," Bonde said.

Victor Espinoza rode Green Team to his two victories at Del Mar, and was back aboard him on Saturday. In each race, Espinoza has been able to get Green Team to, as Bonde put it, "stalk and punch."

"He tries," Espinoza said. "He's got a big heart."

Green Team ($13.20) has now won eight times in 28 starts.