08/30/2001 11:00PM

Nepenthe prevails by a neck

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Nepenthe prevailed in a gritty stretch duel to give jockey Chris McCarron and trainer Ron McAnally their first stakes wins of the Del Mar meet in Thursday's $76,050 California Thoroughbred Trainers and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap.

Winning the first stakes of her career, Nepenthe got an ideal trip from McCarron, who saved ground for most of the race, run over 1 3/8 miles on turf.

Nepenthe ($10.40) was third behind pacesetters Satin Cat and Mary Moscow for the first mile while racing on the rail. McCarron brought her wide on the final turn, caught Satin Cat in early stretch, and held off a determined rally from Bucarest and an unlucky Nuit de Siam to win by a head in 2:13.85.

A neck separated Bucarest from Nuit de Siam, who was in tight at the top of the stretch between Bucarest and a fading Satin Cat, who finished sixth in the field of seven fillies and mares.

Owned by Stonerside Stable, the 4-year-old Nepenthe, by Storm Cat, has won three of 13 starts. Earlier this summer, she was second in the Estrapade Stakes at Hollywood Park and third in the Honey Fox Handicap here on Aug. 3. Her success in turf marathons has been a pleasant surprise to McAnally.

"I thought the Storm Cats didn't want to run that far," McAnally said. "Chris said he couldn't pull her up."