11/06/2003 12:00AM

My Captain living up to prediction

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ALBANY, Calif. - Last spring, when Presidio Heights was making news by winning the Danville and Atherton handicaps, Steve Sherman made a bold prediction about another horse in his barn, My Captain.

"I told people that I thought he was better than Presidio Heights," said Sherman, the son of and assistant to trainer Art Sherman.

My Captain is the likely favorite in Saturday's $60,000-added Albany Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. He has won three straight stakes: the Ernest Finley at Santa Rosa, Big Jag at Bay Meadows, and Bull Dog at Fresno.

My Captain's versatility makes him look tough to beat, even though he is spotting his five rivals six to 11 pounds. He has enough speed to take the lead if needed, but he will likely sit off the pace of comebacking Souvenir's Lad, a 3-year-old who has won both of his starts over this track. My Captain has more speed than rivals More Crafty, U S S Tinosa, Sirpa, and Texas Chili, and he will get first run on the leader.

"He is speed. He can go," Steve Sherman said. "But we found something out about him when he ran against El Dorado Shooter earlier this year. He doesn't like to be cowboyed out of the gate. Let him get on the bit. He wants to feel like he's the man, like he's doing the work."

Another key to My Captain's recent success is that a series of quarter cracks have cleared up.

My Captain is strictly the one to beat, but trainer William Morey Jr. is confident that his entry of More Crafty and Texas Chili will run well. Texas Chili won the Sam J. Whiting at Pleasanton, while More Crafty was an impressive winner in a $50,000 optional claimer on Oct. 1 after a breathing problem was cleared up.

Both come from off the pace, but More Crafty will be sitting closer than his stablemate.

Morey's lone concern is that predicted rain might cause the track to be sealed. "I hope the track is not speed-biased," he said.

Bay Meadows handle increases

This year's 50-day fall meeting at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif., showed a 3.9 percent increase in total handle over the 2002 meeting despite a 2.7 percent decrease in northern California handle.

There was a 13 percent increase in average daily export handle, consisting of wagers generated outside California.

The total handle, including account wagering, was $191.4 million, compared with $184.2 million for 2002. Wagering in northern California, including simulcast sites, fell from $106 million to $103.1 million.

Ontrack attendance decreased 4.3 percent with a daily average of 3,179, despite a Labor Day crowd of 10,433, the largest single-day ontrack attendance at Bay Meadows since Labor Day 1995. Northern California offtrack attendance decreased 3.6 percent.

A shift in the racing calendar, which moved Cal Cup Day at Oak Tree to when Golden Gate Fields is running, and substitution of two nighttime cards for afternoon cards were cited as reasons for the ontrack decrease.

Three winning streaks end

Three horses with a combined winning streak of 15 victories were defeated on Golden Gate's opening day Wednesday.

Heat of the Moment was 2-5 in a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs as she sought her sixth straight victory. She stumbled leaving the gate and stumbled again after regaining her footing. Heat of the Moment recovered and moved up to take the lead but faded badly late to finish last in the field of five. Trainer Brent Sumja claimed her.

Long Point, who had won four straight, all at the $4,000 claiming level, ran evenly as the 6-5 favorite in a $4,000 claimer at one mile, finishing fifth. Trainer Darrell Vienna claimed him. Don't Ignore Her finished last at even money in a $6,250 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs while seeking her seventh straight win. She was bumped at the break and faded from her stalking position when four wide on the turn. Trainer John F. Martin claimed her.