12/28/2007 1:00AM

Now Victory never headed in Forty Niner

EmailALBANY, Calif. – Now Victory ($8), Northern California’s top turf horse, made a smooth transition to the main track on Wednesday, scoring a front-running victory in the $75,000 Forty Niner Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

Now Victory broke a step slowly but quickly took control of the 1 1/16-mile race on the Tapeta surface. He cruised down the backstretch and had plenty left when challenged by McCann’s Mojave on the second turn. McCann’s Mojave got to his flank as the pair turned into the stretch, but Now Victory inched away late, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in a Tapeta record time of 1:42.15. Siren Lure was third, another 1 1/4 lengths back of McCann’s Mojave.

“He’s so big, it takes him a jump or two to get going,” said trainer Dean Pederson, who notched his third victory on the day. “You don’t want to grab him and get in a fight with him. You might take a hold, but you let him be the boss.”

Russell Baze, riding his fourth winner of the day, got the mount when Frank Alvarado opted to ride McCann’s Mojave, who won the race last year when it was called the Union Square.

“He’s like a tank,”" Baze said of Now Victory. “When we turned onto the backstretch, he wanted to take off. I took a big hold, and it was like pulling on a tree stump. He wants to go, and he’s good enough to pull it off.”

Alvarado, who told Baze of Now Victory’s quirks before the race, said: “We didn’t have any excuse. Now Victory is tough when he’s out there by himself. At the half-mile pole, I sent my horse after him to put on some pressure. That horse just didn’t quit. My horse never gave up. He tried all the way.”

The victory was the ninth in 26 starts for Now Victory, 6-year-old gelding owned by Harris Farms and Per Antonsen. He picked up $45,000 to increase his lifetime earnings to $428,246.

Now Victory will now probably be pointed for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita on Jan. 26, where he will probably again meet McCann’s Mojave, who won the race last year.