10/18/2003 11:00PM

The Herc steps up in Sunny Slope

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The Herc, claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden race on Oct. 9, won his stakes debut in Saturday's $81,975 Sunny Slope Stakes for 2-year-olds at Santa Anita.

The win came two days after the death of owner Sam Longo, 96.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, The Herc battled with Voladero throughout the six furlongs, setting wicked fractions of 21.26 and 43.83 seconds. Entering the stretch, the two were separated by a head, with The Herc holding a lead.

He was passed in midstretch by Voladero but fought back to win by a head, finishing in 1:09.51.

The stewards conducted an inquiry into a bumping incident between the two in the stretch but ruled unanimously that both horses contributed to the contact.

Longgonetrevorsean, a 40-1 shot, closed from seventh in the field of eight to finish third. Cooperation, the 3-5 favorite, never threatened the leaders and finished fourth.

The Herc ($11.20) is trained by Gary Stute and has earned $69,785.