05/13/2004 11:00PM

Koriner has learned to adapt

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - What's a former Quarter Horse trainer doing dominating turf racing in northern California?

Trainer Brian Koriner won both of Wednesday's turf races at Bay Meadows, with Blue Imp and Aza. His win rate on the turf going back to Jan. 1, 2003, is 22 percent with a flat-bet profit of more than $3.

"I pay attention to all the great trainers," Koriner said. "How often do you see a Robert Frankel horse on the lead in a turf race? The only time is when they're rank. Usually they sit there and make a big move into the stretch."

That's exactly what Blue Imp did. Aza, however, scored a wire-to-wire victory, thanks to some improvising by jockey Frank Alvarado.

"I told [Alvarado] to sit back, but the pace was so slow, he ended up on the lead," Koriner said.

The rail was at 25 feet out from its normal setting on Wednesday, and that usually benefits front-runners. Koriner doesn't mind horses showing speed; in fact, he looks for them.

"Horses that win big races like the Kentucky Derby all start off with speed," he said. "They have to be fast. The question is who can contain it and maintain it."

Quarter Horses are taught to go all out from the instant the gate opens, but Koriner knows Thoroughbreds cannot be trained that way. "It's always best to get horses to relax," he said. "Horses don't win running off on the turf."

Turf feature sets up for closer

Six 3-year-olds meet in a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the feature on Sunday's card.

My Creed, who just won his maiden, and Lava Man, who has two turf victories, are the only runners with wins over the grass, but Soccer Dan, Dancin Candy and Epic Power have all been runners-up on the turf.

There should be plenty of pace with Dancin Candy, Epic Power, Haint You Grand, and Lava Man each willing to run on the lead.

Soccer Dan, who is removing blinkers, should be sitting behind the leaders.

But the race could belong to Epic Power, who turned in a strong performance when second in his turf debut. He closed well that day despite being blocked at the head of the lane and should be finishing fastest here.

* The mule Jesse Perez was disqualified from his July 25, 2003, victory at the Santa Rosa Fair after testing positive for atropine at an excessive level and for the prohibited substance scopolamine. Trainer Rhoda March was fined $500 for the violations.