10/05/2002 12:00AM

Night Patrol upsets Oak Tree Mile

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Night Patrol may have earned the respect of bettors following his upset win in Saturday's $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

After losing three stakes in the last five months following a win in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap last May, Night Patrol won his richest race in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile, holding off the late rally of Kachamandi and Nicobar.

The victory moved him into the picture for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park on Oct. 26, though trainer Nick Canani stopped short of saying he was a definite.

Ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., Night Patrol stalked the heavily favored Congaree to early stretch, took over at the eighth pole and held on to win by a nose. Night Patrol ($20.20) finished a mile on turf in 1:32.92.

"He dug in," Canani said. "Jose gave him a perfect ride. I told Jose, 'He's a free-running horse. Come out of there and find position.'"

Kachamandi finished a nose in front of Nicobar, with Congaree, the 9-10 favorite, and D'Wildcat, another contender, finishing seventh and eighth.

Jockey Mike Smith said that Congaree was never settled. "I couldn't get him to turn off," he said.

The 6-year-old Night Patrol has won 9 of 45 starts and $639,693 for Jeff Nielsen's Everest Stable.

Valdivia has won the last two runnings of the Oak Tree Mile. Last year, he scored with Val Royal, who later won the Breeders' Cup Mile for Nick's father, Julio.