01/11/2004 1:00AM

Hosco a winner in stakes bow

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Hosco continues to defy expectations. A former maiden claimer, Hosco won his stakes debut in Sunday's $108,100 at Santa Anita, leading throughout to score a one-length victory in the sprint.

The victory left owners Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez and trainer Doug O'Neill wondering if Hosco can be effective in longer races in coming months.

"He doesn't act like a horse that wants to go two turns, but before he ran he didn't act like a horse that would win three in a row," O'Neill said.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Hosco ($10) finished six furlongs in 1:09.36. Starting from the rail in a field of seven 3-year-olds, Hosco led by a length through fractions of 21.03 and 43.80 seconds. Roi Charmant got within a half-length at the quarter-pole, but could not get closer through the stretch.

Hosco finished three lengths in front of Gethsemani, a 12-1 shot. The Herc, the 8-5 favorite and the winner of the Sunny Slope Stakes here in October, finished sixth.

Hosco has earned $111,660. He scored a two-length win in an $80,000 claiming race for maidens at Hollywood Park on Dec. 4 and won an optional claimer by a nose here on Dec. 26. He has yet to race beyond six furlongs.