09/06/2004 11:00PM

My Creed continues winning habit


AUBURN, Wash. - My Creed required six starts to earn his maiden win in a grass race last March at Golden Gate Fields, but since then he has done very little wrong.

My Creed, a 3-year-old son of Beau Genius trained by Bob Hess Sr., came back to finish third in a pair of allowance races on the grass. Switched to dirt, he won an allowance race at Pleasanton in July and followed by winning last month's 1 1/16-mile J.F. Lyttle Memorial Handicap at Santa Rosa.

Monday at Emerald Downs, My Creed reached a new plateau in his skyrocketing career with his third straight score, in the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

Under Miguel Perez, My Creed stalked the pacesetting Flamethrowintexan and Random Memo through a mile in 1:35, angled out for room passing the furlong marker, and finished with a rush to prevail by almost three lengths in 1:47.40. Flamethrowintexan outlasted Random Memo for second by a neck.

"He has always had ability, but now he is maturing and learning to relax," said Hess. "I think he has learned how to be a racehorse."

My Creed, who was saddled for the derby by local trainer Junior Coffey, snapped a five-race win streak by Flamethrowintexan, the 3-2 favorite in a field of seven. Jockey Ricky Frazier offered no excuses, other than to note that Monday's surface wasn't especially kind to speed horses. Only two of the 10 races were won by front-runners.

The derby appearance represented a homecoming for Perez, who rode at Emerald in 2000 and finished second to Gallyn Mitchell in the rider standings with 110 wins. It was a return after a longer absence for Hess, who reported that he was stationed at nearby Fort Lewis when serving in the army as a young man.

"When I was discharged I went to Longacres and got a job with a trainer named Ray Adams," he recalled. "He paid me $35 a week, and when I decided to go out on my own he couldn't believe it because he thought I had such a sweet deal."

Hess said he received his education in horse racing at Longacres, but he left for California in 1960 after receiving one lesson too many.

"I had this horse named Torokina who was a half-brother to a good horse named Cold Steel, but he was a brother in name only," the trainer recalled. "I couldn't win a race with him, but I finally got him in a mile race I thought he could win. The only horse he couldn't beat drew the 11 hole, and at that time they ran the mile races with only 10 horses."

When there were no scratches, Hess thought he was home free. Then the program came out and 11 starters were listed.

"I went to the board of stewards to protest," he said. "I thought I had a good chance because I was dating the daughter of one of them, but they told me, 'We make the rules and we can change them. If you don't like it, you can pack up and ship out.' Naturally, my horse ran second to the 11 horse."

If the incident left a bad taste in his mouth, Hess's latest experience with Seattle racing was more pleasant. My Creed earned $55,000 for his owners, Norm and Vivien Pulliam's Seven Star Racing Stable, and he encouraged them to hope for even bigger paydays in the future.

Hess said My Creed may start next in the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Oct. 2.

Sandbagger Sam joins the crowd in midrace

First-time starter Sandbagger Sam and jockey Kevin Krigger miraculously escaped injury when the horse bolted entering the stretch, unseating his rider, then proceeded to crash over the outside fence and land on the grandstand tarmac. Fortunately, trainer Steve Bullock was standing only a few feet away and was able to catch Sandbagger Sam before he could run amok in the crowd.

"It was crazy," said Bullock. "I was just standing there watching the race and this horse comes flying over the rail like a high jumper. I'm just glad nobody got hurt."

Krigger resumed riding later in the card, while Sandbagger Sam was led back to trainer Robbie Baze's barn with no apparent injuries.

Trainer race tightens

Trainer Frank Lucarelli won with 3 of his 15 starters last week to take a 46-44 lead over Tim McCanna in the trainer standings with nine days of racing remaining in the meet. Jim Penney is still within reach with 42 wins, while Sharon Ross ranks fourth with 38 wins. The four are the only trainers who have won titles at Emerald, with McCanna finishing as leading trainer five times and the others once apiece.

Frazier, the leading rider, went winless from 19 mounts last week, but retains a 98-89 edge over his closest pursuer, Ben Russell.