01/14/2002 12:00AM

Morey finally has reasons to smile

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Bill Morey admits he got frustrated earlier in the Golden Gate Fields meeting, but he heads into Wednesday's feature race feeling pretty good.

One reason is that Schnitzel looks like the one to beat in the 1 1/16-mile $25,000 claiming race on the turf. Another reason is that Morey comes off a training double last Saturday.

"I was definitely frustrated, but I never hit the panic button," said Morey, a long-time assistant to his father, Bill Morey Jr.

While it took him a while to get his first win, Morey had plenty of seconds and thirds.

"We caught up a bit on Saturday," said Morey, who saddled maiden winners Him and Lucky Basket in back-to-back races and now has seven winners for the meeting. He also has 15 seconds and six thirds from 51 starters. "After we got the first win, I think we had a dozen seconds before we got the second win."

Schnitzel won 2 of 6 starts last year, both in $40,000 optional claimers. Her last start was Dec. 8 in the Golden Poppy Handicap.

"We took a shot," Morey said of Schnitzel's fifth-place finish. "She was pitched a little over her head, but we were starting to wonder how many turf races would be run. I think she's strictly a turf mare."

Morey's father claimed Schnitzel for $25,000.

"We liked her turf numbers and her consistency," said Morey, who became the trainer of record last February when his father was still based in Southern California. "We thought she'd be really tough here. She turned out to be a good claim."

Stewards' ruling aids Derby handle

Thanks to a stewards' ruling that allowed three colts trained by Jerry Hollendorfer to run as separate interests rather than being coupled, Saturday's Golden Gate Derby had six betting interests. Had there been only four betting interests, there would have been no show or trifecta wagering.

Handle on the race was $532,543, substantially higher than what it would have handled with only four betting interests, according to the mutuel department.

The race, itself could turn out to be the race of the year at the track with Danthebluegrassman edging Cappuchino in the final stride.

Perhaps the best news for Golden Gate Fields was winning owner Mike Pegram's comment about the upcoming El Camino Real Derby on March 9. "There's no reason we shouldn't be here," he said.

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