12/27/2007 12:00AM

Gutierrez capable substitute

EmailALBANY, Calif. - Mario Gutierrez did such a good job winning aboard Valid Star on Wednesday for Jerry Hollendorfer that the trainer has named him on another horse Saturday at Golden Gate Fields.

With Hollendorfer's No. 1 rider, Hall of Famer Russell Baze, out of town this weekend, Gutierrez will ride the first-timer Dunvegan for Hollendorfer in a maiden special sprint.

And the way Hollendorfer talks about Gutierrez, who came to Northern California in the fall after winning the Hastings riding title, more mounts could be in the offing.

"I've been watching him and probably should have used him sooner," said Hollendorfer, who had ridden Gutierrez only once before Wednesday.

Gutierrez and Valid Star beat favored Sandyneck and Baze by a neck in a $6,250 claimer at a mile.

"He put this horse in the right place, and he's shown patience since coming down here," Hollendorfer said.

Gutierrez, 21, began riding in 2005 and was the leading apprentice at Hastings in 2006. This year, he led Hastings riders with 134 victories, 46 more than the runner-up. He was fifth in the Golden Gate Fields standings during the fall-winter meet with 18 victories in 93 starts .

Gutierrez's Saturday mount, Dunvegan, has a series of bullet works for his debut, including a six-furlong move from the gate at Bay Meadows on Dec. 12. He has worked over the Golden Gate Tapeta as well.

Baze will be in Arizona riding a pair of Greg Gilchrist-trained 2-year-olds in stakes at Turf Paradise this weekend: Fort Funston in the $50,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes on Saturday and the unbeaten High Resolve in the $45,000 Arizona Juvenile Fillies on Sunday.

Now Victory handles surface switch

Now Victory ($8), Northern California's top turf horse, made a smooth transition to the main track on Wednesday, scoring a front-running victory in the $75,000 Forty Niner Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

Now Victory broke a step slowly but quickly took control of the 1 1/16-mile race on the Tapeta surface. He cruised down the backstretch and had plenty left when challenged by McCann's Mojave on the second turn. McCann's Mojave got to his flank as the pair turned into the stretch, but Now Victory inched away late, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in a Tapeta record time of 1:42.15. Siren Lure was third, another 1 1/4 lengths back of McCann's Mojave.

"He's so big, it takes him a jump or two to get going," said trainer Dean Pederson, who notched his third victory on the day. "You don't want to grab him and get in a fight with him. You might take a hold, but you let him be the boss."

Russell Baze, riding his fourth winner of the day, got the mount when Frank Alvarado opted to ride McCann's Mojave, who won the race last year when it was called the Union Square.

"He's like a tank," Baze said of Now Victory. "When we turned onto the backstretch, he wanted to take off. I took a big hold, and it was like pulling on a tree stump. He wants to go, and he's good enough to pull it off."

Alvarado, who told Baze of Now Victory's quirks before the race, said: "We didn't have any excuse. Now Victory is tough when he's out there by himself. At the half-mile pole, I sent my horse after him to put on some pressure. That horse just didn't quit. My horse never gave up. He tried all the way."

The victory was the ninth in 26 starts for Now Victory, 6-year-old gelding owned by Harris Farms and Per Antonsen. He increased his lifetime earnings to $428,246.

Now Victory will now probably be pointed for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita on Jan. 26, where he will probably again meet McCann's Mojave, who won the race last year.

Outrider averts dangerous situation

Outrider Bobby Anderson was able to run down Rollins, a 2-year-old maiden who ducked through the temporary railing leaving the six-furlong chute and lost his rider in Wednesday's fourth race.

The second choice in the race, Rollins took off running the wrong way around the clubhouse turn and would have entered the stretch running the wrong way against the field had Anderson not been able to pin him near the outside fence and catch him near the exit gap to the barn area.