11/24/2003 1:00AM

No shortage of speed or class in sprint


ALBANY, Calif. - Three stakes winners and an undefeated runner square off in Wednesday's feature at Golden Gate Fields, a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs.

Sempai, Con Quixote, and Texas Chili are the three stakes winners in a field of six. Sempai recently defeated Con Quixote by a half-length in a $40,000 claimer, and Texas Chili was third in the Albany Handicap in his last start.

Constant Thunder, who made his debut Oct. 2 as a 4-year-old, is 2 for 2 in his career.

Big League, fourth as the favorite in the race in which Sempai defeated Con Quixote, and Souvenir's Lad, who set a blistering pace in his comeback in the Albany before fading, round out the field.

Leading rider Russell Baze, who has ridden all of the horses in the field except Souvenir's Lad, was aboard for both of Constant Thunder's starts, each of which resulted in a 96 Beyer. For Wednesday's race, however, Baze is listed to ride Con Quixote.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Constant Thunder's debut was delayed by a series of nagging injuries, but Constant Thunder has had a pair of solid maintenance drills at Golden Gate Fields since his last victory.

Souvenir's Lad is capable of pulling off a big surprise. Souvenir's Lad, who draws the outside post, is the speed of the speed and has the ability to run a 43-and-change opening half-mile. Trainer Jeff Bonde felt Souvenir's Lad was one work short going into the Albany, which was his first loss in three tries over the track.

With all the speed in the race, Texas Chili, the only bonafide closer in the field, could receive a good setup.

Stakes nominees

Nine of the 15 nominees for Friday's $75,000-added Forty-Niner Handicap are expected run in the 1 1/16-mile race, including highweights Daunting and Truly a Judge, who will each carry 117 pounds.

Also listed as likely candidates for the race are Long Gone Con, Nose the Trade, Lethal Instrument, Surprise Halo, Vallarta, Aly Bubba, and How Bout Jose.

Sixteen fillies and mares were nominated for Saturday's $60,000-added Star Ball Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. The race could mark the final appearance in northern California for Lindsay Jean, who lost a photo in the race last year and has three stakes wins this year. Lindsay Jean is expected to be retired to become a broodmare next year, although she may run in the Sunshine Millions in January.

Lindsay Jean's most interesting rival could be crack sprinter Lacie Girl, who was second in the Santa Clara Handicap at Bay Meadows earlier this year in her lone start around two turns.

Santa Rosa turf coming in '05

Sonoma County Fair manager Jim Moore said construction of the turf course at the Santa Rosa track is set to begin this spring, with turf racing to be offered at the 2005 meeting.

Moore said that because negotiations with the operator of the infield golf course were not concluded until Nov. 2, grading for the turf course could not begin until next spring.

The course will be built with the capacity for two rail settings and several different kinds of grass. A new golf course will also be constructed to prevent interference with the turf course.

Apprentice returns

Marcia Stortz, who rode the first winner of her career here in February in only her seventh mount, is returning to Golden Gate Fields this week. Stortz, a graduate of Colorado State with a degree in equine science, grew up in San Francisco.

Shortly after her first victory, Stortz left Golden Gate Fields for Kentucky, where she quickly picked up her second win. She has been riding on the East Coast and has recorded 51 victories from 494 mounts. She also has 53 seconds and 63 thirds.

Stallion auction

Seasons for more than 50 stallions will be offered for bid at the Glen Ellen Vocational Academy's stallion auction Dec. 5-14. The stallion auction is the primary fundraiser for northern California's nonprofit retirement and rehabilitation farm for racehorses.

Among the stallions in the bidding are first-year stallions Freespool and Takin It Deep.

Information on the auction is available at glenellenfarms.com.