08/03/2007 11:00PM

Now Victory repeats in Grace Handicap

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Relaxing nicely on the lead, defending champion Now Victory ($3.40) had no trouble repelling a brief challenge by Saratoga's Magic at the quarter pole to score an easy victory in the $50,930 Joseph T. Grace Handicap on Saturday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Now Victory had an open lead on Saratoga's Magic, taking command as the field of six raced to the first turn. He relaxed nicely under Frank Alvarado and still hadn’t been asked when Saratoga’s Magic crept within a half-length at the quarter pole.

Alvarado let him run then, and he opened a three-length lead by the eighth pole, winning the 1 1/16-mile turf race by 2 1/2 lengths over Eager Pharisien, the longest shot in the field. He was timed in 1:42.06.

"I had plenty of horse," Alvarado said. "He's getting better and better."

Winning trainer Dean Pederson had no concerns once the field reached the backstretch.

"I was a little concerned the first eighth he might be rank, but when they straightened out at the five-eighths pole, I could see him relax," Pederson said.

Morning-line favorite Red Fort was a late scratch after his rider Russell Baze expressed concerns about the turf course to the horse's trainer, Neil Drysdale. Baze took off his mounts, suffering from shoulder problems prior to the stakes.

Now Victory earned $37,630 for Harris Farms and Pet Antonsen to lift his career total to $250,046 with six victories in 20 starts.