08/02/2007 12:00AM

Now Victory aims to repeat in Grace

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Now Victory seeks a repeat win in Saturday's $50,000 Joseph T. Grace Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at the Sonoma County Fair. He beat Capitano by a head in 2006.

Now Victory has five victories, including two stakes wins. In his last race, Now Victory had to steady early in a second-place finish in the Korbel Handicap on June 30 at Hollywood Park.

He'll be challenged Saturday by Red Fort, a stakes winner in Great Britain and a loser by a head in the Grade 1 Charlie Whittingham in 2005. My Creed, who has two stakes wins this year, is also entered, although his best races have been on the main track.

Despite his talent, Now Victory sometimes wants to run too fast too soon. Last year, he was fourth early behind three dueling leaders when he won the Grace.

"He can relax," jockey Frank Alvarado said.

Alvarado said he has learned a lot about getting the best out of Now Victory. "Mostly, I try to keep him quiet in the post parade," he said.

Now Victory is not a horse a rider can fight with, so Alvarado said he sometimes has to give the 6-year-old gelding his head early in hopes he can get him to relax as he runs.

Designer Breed comes off an 11-length maiden win at Pleasanton on July 5, his second start. Despite his inexperience, he can contend if he improves. Designer Breed finished third after hesitating at the break in his debut, which came on turf. Designer Breed's trainer, Steve Specht, said he wouldn't normally jump a horse from a maiden victory into a stakes.

"We thought about a Cal-bred allowance race at Del Mar, but if we can get some black type for him, it will be better for the owners because they own the dam," he said. "There was nothing much in that race he won, but he did it with authority and he's been working well. I don't think it matters what the surface is."

* Through three weeks of the combined Solano-Sonoma meeting, the total all-source handle is down 8 percent from last year's same three-week period. Total ontrack wagering is down 18 percent, from $6,744,708 in 2006 to $5,553,940. Ontrack handle Wednesday, the first day of racing at Santa Rosa with no fair running, was $230,935, down from last Wednesday's handle of $328,270.