02/02/2004 12:00AM

Her First Maki to end three-year layoff

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Doug Utley remembers Her First Maki's last start as if it were yesterday, not nearly three years ago.

Her First Maki scored a three-quarter-length decision over Beyond Brilliant in the Sutter Handicap. The 1:08.40 clocking for six furlongs earned the young 3-year-old a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

After the race, run Feb. 10, 2001, Utley spoke with Greg Gilchrist, the trainer of Beyond Brilliant.

"I told Greg it was such a hard race it might take mine from a stakes winner to a $6,250 claimer," Utley said.

Utley had no idea how true his words were.

Her First Maki makes his first start since that stakes victory Wednesday at Golden Gate Fields. Now 6 years old, the horse has a series of strong works but is unlikely to be favored in the $25,000 claimer at six furlongs.

"This horse has had more problems than you can imagine," Utley said. "He's spent more time at UC-Davis during that time than he has at the racetrack."

The race sets up nicely on paper for Her First Maki, who loves to stalk and fire. His two victories before the stakes win came at the $25,000 claiming level. He has 3 wins and 4 seconds in 9 career starts.

Twentythreejaybird can be expected to set the pace with pressure from Rusty Man. Our Magistrate and Waki American should sit just off the leaders with Her First Maki.

Utley raised Her First Maki at his farm in nearby Tracy, Calif. He has mixed reactions about his comeback.

"I don't want to run him too hard and get hurt again," Utley said. "The type of horse he is, that's a serious concern. He's not one to go out and cheat you."

Utley often gives his horses fast works, and he has tightened the screws as best he can with Her First Maki.

"I didn't dare try to put a tightener into him," he said. "He lays his body down every time he goes to the track."

Utley said that Her First Maki would be scratched if the track is off.

"If he hadn't had problems, there's no telling what he would have become," he said. "He was cut out to be a nice horse."

Pair of stakes on weekend

Golden Gate Fields has two stakes for this weekend: the $75,000-added Tanforan Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf Saturday and the $75,000-added Golden State Mile for 3-year-olds Sunday. The Tanforan drew 27 nominations and the Golden State Mile has 29.

Highweighted for the Tanforan is the Beau Greely-trained Grammarian at 120 pounds. He is followed by a pair of Bobby Frankel trainees, Blue Stellar at 118 and Fateful Dream at 117. Two Jerry Hollendorfer trainees, Cappuchino and Gold Ruckus, both of whom are expected to run, get in at 116. Trainer Lonnie Arterburn said Club Forty One (113) would also run.

Hollendorfer nominated two fillies, Bending Strings and Wildwood Flower, to the Golden State Mile and said he was considering running one of them in the race against males. Arterburn will run Kilgowan, winner of two straight at the distance.

Trainer Doug O'Neill has nominated eight runners, including Skipaslew, winner of the Gold Rush and Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby here in his past two starts.

Jockey Eric Saint-Martin worked Skipaslew five furlongs Saturday at Hollywood Park before heading north to guide Red Rioja to victory in the Grade 3 Brown Bess Handicap.

Saint-Martin liked the colt's work, and his agent, Derek Lawson, said that O'Neill plans to run Skipaslew in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on March 13 and then continue on the Kentucky Derby trail in the Illinois Derby, the same route Ten Most Wanted took last year.

Alvarado, Rivera suspended

Both Frank Alvarado and Jose Rivera Jr. will serve three-day suspensions Wednesday through Friday for riding infractions from Jan. 25.

Alvarado was given days for "altering course without sufficient clearance" aboard Maka Me Super, the stewards ruled. Maka Me Super was disqualified from fifth to seventh in the fifth race. Rivera was cited for the same infraction aboard Ghostly Moon in the sixth race.

* Trainer Dan Markle was fined $500 for the unauthorized used of dexamethansone in Missy's Shadow, who ran second in a Dec. 29 race.