08/15/2002 11:00PM

For 'little bulldog,' the longer the better

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Here's one you won't hear from many northern California trainers.

Dean Pederson wishes Sunday's San Matean Handicap, a $40,000-added event at 1 1/16 miles on the Longden Turf Course were longer. A lot longer for Cantil.

"My horse is more effective if he's going a mile and an eighth or even a mile and three-eighths," Pederson said.

"With Cantil, you wish they'd run a mile and a half or a mile and five-eighths.

"If you took a look at the horse, he looks like he can barely run 350 yards. He's not long and lean like many distance horses. He's like a little bulldog."

Cantil won three straight 1 3/8 -mile races this spring. He brings a three-race win streak into Sunday's Bay Meadows Fair feature against four rivals, including a pair a wins at 1 1/8 miles at Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park in his last start July 4.

"My horse will have to run a different kind of race than he's accustomed to," Pederson said.

"At a mile and three-eighths, the pace is moderate, then they kick strong for home. At a distance like this, they can run three-quarters in 10 and change and still kick and run.

"He'll have to run his 'A' game to kick and run in that scenario, but his last couple of mile-and-and-eighths, he's shown a good turn of foot."

Cantil has won five of 10 starts this year with most of his races coming at the $12,500 starter allowance level. His victory at Hollywood Park was in a $16,000 starter allowance.

Pederson confessed that if a $12,500 starter allowance race had filled earlier in the meet, Cantil would have run there.

Instead, he will run in the stakes race as the victim of circumstances.

"He hasn't run in five or six weeks, and we've gotta run somewhere," Pederson said. "We at least have to get a race under his belt before the Bay Meadows meeting starts.

"It's not an easy spot, but the horse is doing well and training well. We're taking a shot, but we hope it's a somewhat intelligent shot."

Russell Baze will ride Cantil, which pederson called "encouraging."

Cantil's top rival appears to be Dr. Park, a graded stakes winner (the Will Rogers, a Grade 3), who has made only two starts this year.

Angel Springs, who just graduated for a $32,000 claiming price at Emerald Downs, Ninebanks, a stakes-placed winner over the course, and Suspicious Minds, first and second over the course in two races this spring, round out the field.

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