04/20/2003 11:00PM

Ninebanks may not have to face Ladies Din

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's $200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile, northern California's only Grade 2 race, might come up with a short field because of a prediction for rain.

Ninebanks, who beat three rivals to win the Grade 3 Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap, may not have many more rivals than that in Bay Meadows's premier stakes race.

Ladies Din, the 120-pound highweight of the 16 nominated to the one-mile turf race, has had his status downgraded from probable to possible.

Ladies Din's trainer, Frank Monteleone, originally said the 8-year-old would run, which would make the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile his first start since winning the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile 11 months ago. But Monteleone also said he does not want the millionaire Ladies Din to run on a soft course.

The only likely entries as of Monday are local stars Ninebanks and I'madrifter, who just won the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap on the main track at Golden Gate Fields, and War Zone, who won his U.S. debut for trainer Bobby Frankel in a 6 1/2-furlong turf race down the hill at Santa Anita.

Intriguing sprint for claimers on Wednesday

The most interesting race on Wednesday's card is a $32,000 claimer at six furlongs, which will be run as the second race.

Fog City Willy, who has won all three starts this year after going 7 for 10 last year, will meet his toughest competition since finishing fourth in a $40,000 optional claimer 11 months ago.

Stocks are Rising, who has won two straight starts at the $32,000 level at Santa Anita after being claimed, and Big League, who has four straight Beyers in the 90's in sprints and drops from the $50,000 level, will be the primary rivals in the field of five.

Fog City Willy drew the outside post 5, which should benefit him because he will break from the gate just outside of his primary pace rival, Stocks are Rising.

Don't spend it all in one place

Rick Privitera, the primary exercise rider for super-fast Presidio Heights, guaranteed jockey Roberto Gonzalez that Presidio Heights would win the Danville Handicap last month at Golden Gate Fields.

"He told me he had been working the horse, and he was ready to explode," Gonzalez said.

Running a 42.89-second half mile, Presidio Heights opened up on El Dorado Shooter and held him off late for the win.

Because of the good-natured kidding that goes on in the jockeys' room, Gonzalez decided to play a joke on Privitera, who began riding in limited races last spring after a seven-year layoff.

When he went by trainer Art Sherman's barn at Golden Gate Fields the next day, Gonzalez left a sealed envelope for Privitera.

Privitera was not at Sherman's barn that day but called Gonzalez to thank him after learning Gonzalez had left him an envelope.

"I told him that I'd made money with the horse and since he'd done so much to get him ready that I wanted to share with him," Gonzalez said. "He said I didn't have to, but I told him I wanted to, and I asked him to do me a favor. I asked if he'd split the money with the other exercise rider and treat the groom to a burrito, and he said he would."

What Privitera didn't know was that Gonzalez had slipped a mere $1 bill into the envelope.

"I would have split the money, but the other rider didn't have 50 cents in change," Privitera said, laughing at the the trick Gonzalez had played on him.

Gonzalez said he would leave Privitera another envelope after Presidio Heights won his second straight stakes in Saturday's Atherton Handicap at Bay Meadows.

"He'll probably give me two dollars this time," Privitera said. "At least I'll be able to share it with the other exercise rider without having to ask him for change."