09/27/2003 12:00AM

Mister Acpen wins first U.S. stakes


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Mister Acpen ($10.60) grabbed the lead out of the gate and was never challenged as he won the $142,500 Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap on Saturday at Bay Meadows.

The Chilean-bred 5-year-old was never pressured as he defeated Fateful Dream by 1 1/4 lengths in the turf race at about 1 1/8 miles. The winning time was 1:46.94.

Mister Acpen had a two-length lead over Lily's Lad through the first six furlongs as winning jockey Roberto Gonzalez slowed the pace down, running the opening half mile in 47.99 seconds and first six furlongs in 1:12.47.

"(Trainer Kristin Mulhall) said to open up and try to be a length and a half or two lengths in front. That's my favorite spot," Gonzalez said.

"At the three-quarter pole, he was just galloping. At the five-eighths, he was just like he was galloping at a two-minute clip. I never really had to ask him till the top of the lane when he changed leads. I said, 'Let's go. Someone might be coming.' "

But no one really was. Fateful Dream outfinished course specialist Ninebanks to be second by a nose, but the only race was for second.

"I definitely wanted Roberto to ride," the 21-year-old Mulhall said. "He won a race for me here with a similar ride. I just wanted someone who could get him out of the gate and sit a couple lengths in front of everyone. The horse really likes it when you get a long hold on him and will relax himself."

Mister Acpen had been purchased by The Thoroughbred Corporation and was headed to Saudi Arabia to race. When Prince Ahmed bin Salman died last summer, Mulhall, who liked the looks of the horse, convinced Steve Taub to organize a syndicate to purchase the horse.

He won an allowance race and was second, beaten three-quarters of a length by Storming Home, in the Grade 1 Charlie Whittingham Handicap this spring. He will now be freshened for the Hollywood Park winter meeting.

He earned $55,000 with his sixth win in 19 starts to lift his career total to $259,974. He has earned $180,200 with two wins in six U.S. starts.