07/09/2003 11:00PM

Jetinto Houston holds key

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VALLEJO, Calif. - Saturday's $50,000 Vacaville Handicap at the Solano County Fair has the makings of being one of northern California's top filly-and-mare sprints of the year.

The six-furlong race brings out northern California's best female sprinter, Lacie Girl, as well as a Southern California speedster, Jetinto Houston.

While they appear the two standouts, there is plenty of depth in the field of nine.

The outcome of the race comes down to a single question: Can anyone catch Jetinto Houston, who is more of a rocket ship than a jet? In her previous northern California start, a Feb. 7 allowance race at Golden Gate Fields, she wired the field, winning by 11.

In her last start, she was stuck inside a three-way pace duel, setting fractions of 21.79 and 43.75 seconds before finishing third behind Madame Pietra and Bear Fan in the June 7 Grade 3 Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park.

Trainer Jenine Sahadi admits she was hoping for an easier spot for Jetinto Houston before heading to Del Mar for California-bred sprints later this summer.

"That race at Hollywood Park where she was ding-donging with two others up front, I don't think she needs to do that," Sahadi said. "I'd like to try to get a win and keep her happy. There are some good races later in the year at Del Mar."

Jetinto Houston, trained by Pico Perdomo before he retired earlier this year, has impressed Sahadi, finishing second for her in the April 26 B Thoughtful at Hollywood Park and running third in the Desert Stormer.

"She's just a big, strong beautiful filly," Sahadi said. "She's tough as nails and likes to fight."

If the main question about the race revolves around the ability of the others to catch Jetinto Houston, the question for her is if she can beat Lacie Girl.

Lacie Girl is 6 for 7 at Saturday's distance, with the only defeat coming by a nose to Ema Bovary, a Chilean stakes winner.

Lacie Girl usually sits off the pace, but she showed more speed in a dominating victory in the Sunnyvale Handicap on May 31 at Bay Meadows in her last start.

Another worth watching, at least in exotic wagering, is Fancee Bargain, who has some unfinished business after finishing third in last year's Vacaville behind Channing Way and Hadl.

Trainer Art Sherman, who will probably take the California-bred Fancee Bargain to Del Mar after the race, still smarts about last year's Vacaville.

"She should have won last year, but she didn't get off good. She made a big move late on a speed-favoring track," he said.

Fancee Bargain closed nicely to be second to Lacie Girl in the Sunnyvale and is "doing well," according to Sherman, as she prepares for her third start of the year.