12/28/2002 12:00AM

I'madrifter moves up if track is wet


ALBANY, Calif. - One year ago, trainer Steve Specht gambled and won at Golden Gate Fields.

Although the Lafayette Handicap on New Year's Day was scheduled to be run on the turf, he nominated I'madrifter hoping the race would be moved to the main track due to heavy rains.

The race was moved to the main track, and I'madrifter led throughout in a romp in the slop, beating Poker Brad by 1 1/4 lengths in the $100,000 race at one mile.

It was I'madrifter's lone victory in 2002 to date. He will be gunning for a repeat under similar conditions on Wednesday when Golden Gate Fields offers the Lafayette Handicap at one mile. This year's purse is $75,000. The track again is likely to be sloppy.

Specht is hoping for two things as he prepares I'madrifter - an inside draw and a good break.

"If you get inside, the one-two-three posts, you've got a big edge," Specht said. "The rail is the place to be."

The track has been sealed with the inner portion much tighter, largely due to the fact that morning workouts have been conducted around dogs for the past week. As a result, the outer portion of the track is often deeper.

Specht hopes I'madrifter breaks well because his best chance to win will come if he's able to assert himself early, as he did last year. Several of the other possibles for the race, including Halo Cat and Metatron, also have good speed, but I'madrifter has been in front in each of his last two sprint preps.

"He's a horse that kind of has to have his way," Specht said. "It's not going to be easy on the lead this time, but if you try to go with him, you may sacrifice yourself."

Hooked on Niners heads feature

Tuesday's Golden Gate Fields feature is a $50,000 optional claiming race at one mile for fillies and mares.

Hooked on Niners, who has won two of four starts, and Devil Dancing, who has won two of her last three starts, are part of a field of nine, including an Armando Lage-trained entry of Chic Domestique and Ste. Pecheresse.

Hooked on Niners won her maiden at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf and her first allowance condition at one mile on the main track at Bay Meadows. In her last start, she was third in a $40,000 optional claiming race at one mile on the turf here.