08/06/2001 12:00AM

'Gypsy' tougher than rest on turf

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Gypsy Road, who just missed in his last start at Santa Rosa, heads a field of eight 3-year-olds in the feature Wednesday, opening day of the 2001 San Mateo County Fair meeting at Bay Meadows.

The 12-day stand will run through Monday, Aug. 20, with only one dark day, next Tuesday. Post time will be 1:15 every day except Fridays, when twilight racing will get under way at 6:45 p.m.

Wednesday's feature is a $25,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds going a mile on the turf, and it heads a weak opening-day card. There are eight Thoroughbred races, and two mixed-breed races that both have five-horse fields.

The eight Thoroughbred races include four maiden claimers. The average field size for the Thoroughbred events is 7.1.

The feature, however, looks like a decent betting event, with six of the eight entrants appearing to have legitimate chances to win.

Gypsy Road, from the Bill Morey stable, appears to deserve the edge because he has been racing well on the main track and also has raced well on the turf. Most of these have had limited or no experience on turf.

In his last start, a $20,000 claiming race at a mile at Santa Rosa, Gypsy Road closed steadily to miss by a neck to Gallatin Gateway, who is back in Wednesday's field. The only time these two met on the grass, however, in a $12,500 starter over the Bay Meadows course, Gypsy Road was fifth, nearly seven lengths in front of Gallatin Gateway, who finished sixth.

Gypsy Road also raced well in his only other turf race, missing by a neck for a $20,000 claiming price here on May 30. The winner of that race was I'ma Little Nugget, who figures in the thick of things again on Wednesday. Gypsy Road's form since then, however, seems to be a little better than I'ma Little Nugget's.

Other contenders include Redly, Starship Liberty, and Rah Rah Party.

A trio of $40,000-added turf stakes will highlight the meeting?the Floral Fiesta for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, Aug. 11; the Lady Morvich Handicap for fillies and mares on Saturday, Aug. 18; and the San Matean Handicap for 3-year-olds and up on Sunday, Aug. 19.

The fair also offers two stakes for Quarter Horses, two for Arabians, and one for Appaloosas, all of which have purses of $7,500.