05/04/2004 11:00PM

Mare out to hook a stakes


SAN MATEO, Calif. - There is only one thing missing on Hooked on Niners' resume - a stakes victory.

Trainer Bill Morey Jr. is hopeful that will be rectified Saturday when the 5-year-old mare runs in the Grade 3, $125,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap.

In 14 career starts, Hooked on Niners has never finished worse than fourth. She has four wins and $144,300 in earnings, plus a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Brown Bess Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 31.

"She's been a very consistent mare for us," Morey said. "She has to have pace to get up to win, but she's been consistent."

Hooked on Niners finished fourth in the Miss America over the turf course here in her last start. The first three finishers that day, Hippogator, Marwood, and A B Noodle, will run again Saturday.

Despite a field of 10, the Miss America was run with the rails on the turf course set 25 feet from the inside setting. That worked against Hooked on Niners.

"I think if you ask all handicappers, when the rail is out, pace seems to get away and is hard to run down," Morey said. "In our case, we got back pretty far, and that's one situation when the pace has to come back. When the rail is out, pace is hard to charge down."

Trainer Jerry Hollendofer, whose Hippogator and Marwood ran one-two in the Miss America, can't explain why having the rail out favors speed.

"I guess it gives horses less room to maneuver," he said.

Tom Doutrich, the Bay Meadows racing secretary, said placing the rail is the responsibility of the turf course superintendent, Bernie Eastridge.

"It all depends upon the condition of the turf course," Doutrich said. "We have a fairly thin course and try to run on the best surface possible."

The extra sixteenth of the 1 1/8-mile Yerba Buena may help Hooked on Niners, although she has never been farther than 1 1/16 miles.

"On form, it looks that way," Morey said.

* The speedy Marty's Zee drew the rail and will be the one to catch in Friday's Bay Meadows feature, an $80,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles. She has won her past two starts at the distance and level, coming back on to beat Hippogator after being passed in the stretch in her last start at this distance.

* Jockey Macario Rodriguez begins a five-day suspension Friday for his ride aboard Danzhound, who was disqualified from second to fifth for causing interference in the seventh race on April 29.