03/20/2008 12:00AM

Now Victory appears difficult to run down

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - The seven runners in Saturday's $55,000 March Madness Handicap at Bay Meadows have accumulated good credentials. The one-mile turf race drew six stakes winners and one multiple-stakes-placed runner.

What may separate them is the speed of Now Victory. The 7-year-old Now Victory has won the last three starts he has made in Northern California, two coming in stakes. He has not been so lucky in his Southern California forays, finishing next-to-last in the Sunshine Millions Classic in his last start Jan. 26 and in the Cal Cup Mile last November.

Now Victory could be the lone speed in the March Madness, which will make it hard for his main competition, the uncoupled entry of Bold Chieftain and Pass the Heat sent out by Bill Morey Jr.

The Sunshine Millions Classic was run on Santa Anita's synthetic surface, and trainer Dean Pederson said he thinks Now Victory is better on turf. It didn't help that Now Victory bobbled leaving the gate and then rushed up through a suicidal pace duel.

"It's time to get back to work on the surface he does best on," Pederson said.

Now Victory has won 7 of 22 turf starts, including the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall the last time he ran on the local grass course.

Bold Chieftain won the California Dreamin' on the turf at Del Mar last year and was second in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Derby over the turf here in 2006. He comes off a victory in the Presidents Day Stakes on the dirt here.

Although Bold Chieftain won the Cal Cup Classic at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita main track last year, Morey said he thinks he is better suited to a mile.

Pass the Heat won five of his first six starts, including an allowance over this course and a main-track stakes at Fresno. In his last race, he lost by a nose in a Feb. 3 allowance on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields.

Also entered are El Don, who won the 2006 California Turf Championship here; the multiple stakes winner Stratham, who did little in his Feb. 2 comeback after 20 months on the sidelines; Putmeinyourwill, who won the Seabiscuit over this course last year; and the multiple-stakes-placed Maduff, third behind Now Victory in the Bay Meadows BC Handicap.