07/01/2002 11:00PM

It's raining fish: Hallelujah!


PLEASANTON, Calif. - It's summertime in northern California. The living is easy and the fish really are jumping . . .

Veterinarian Dr. Don Smith was making his rounds at Golden Gate Fields on June 23, when a fish fell out of the sky and hit him.

"I was standing outside of Gloria Haley's barn talking with [vet] Jay Reynolds when a fish hit me on the shoulder," Dr. Smith said. "It was eight inches long and hit me pretty good."

Dr. Smith said he assumes that a bird had caught the fish in San Francisco Bay, which borders Golden Gate Fields, but couldn't hang on to it. Haley's barn is the closest to the Bay.

"There was a seagull squawking so I guess he dropped the fish, and the fish was squirming," said Dr. Smith, who picked the fish up and took it to show Haley.

The fish wasn't moving, but Haley put it in bucket of water - and it moved! Haley and Dr. Smith took the fish back to the Bay and released it into the water.

"I talked with [trainer] Greg Gilchrist, who fishes, and he said it was probably a bullhead" - a fish similar to a catfish, Dr. Smith said. "He told me I caught more fish in the stable than he did in a boat.

"What are the odds of something like that happening? I probably should have bought a lottery ticket."

Look out for that mule!

Hugh Morgan, a veteran starter on the northern California fair circuit, would gladly have traded places with Dr. Smith.

The day before Dr. Smith and the fish collided, a mule hit Morgan at Stockton.

Morgan stood on the track beside the inner rail to see that the field was ready to go in a mule race. But when he opened the gates for the 350-yard dash, Kidd Farms Dee-Two, breaking from post 1, made a quick left turn and headed straight at Morgan.

Jockey Elliot Demeseme frantically tried to straighten the mule and was able to avoid a head-on collision, but the mule struck Morgan, bruising both his body and his pride.

Kidd Farms Dee-Two was declared a nonstarter, and Morgan, who was not seriously injured, returned to starting races from the infield, although he did take the next day off.

No holiday stakes

There will be no Thoroughbred stakes offered at the Alameda County Fair on Thursday after only four 3-year-old fillies were nominated for the Pleasanton Senorita.

The Senorita was written as an overnight stakes to give racing secretary Greg Brent and the Fair the option to cancel if there were not enough entries.

Though there are no stakes, the 12-race holiday card is a solid one with four $32,000 starter allowance races.

Half Fare will tackle the entry of Crown of Creation and Nice Fish at a mile and 70 yards in the first of the starter races. Ohforcraftsakes comes north to meet a deep field of fillies and mares in a six-furlong race.

Males sprint six furlongs in the other two starter events with speedy Mt. Rainer making his second start after a layoff in one and Con Quixote, Firstborn Son, and Always the Winner matched in the second.