08/05/2006 12:00AM

Now Victory upsets in Grace Handicap

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Rated early after battling on suicide fractions in his last start, Now Victory ($19.20) outfinished perfect tripper Capitano, winning a head bob in the $101,200 Joseph T. Grace Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair on Saturday.

Kept under a snug hold by jockey Frank Alvarado, Now Victory relaxed during the 1 1/16-mile turf race unlike his previous start when he dueled head-and-head through 22.28, 44.59, 1:10.04 fractions with Megabyte in the Alamedan Handicap at Pleasanton.

In the Grace, he sat back as The Fourteenth and Shadow Raider battled on the lead early through reasonable fractions of 23.37, 47.27 and 1:11.79.

Now Victory sat in fourth behind the leaders and Tormento de Oro while saving ground down the backstretch, he shifted into the clear on the second turn while Capitano, after waiting briefly behind a tiring The Fourteenth, moved along the inside.

Capitano was a head in front of Now Victory as they dueled down the lane with Now Victory getting the nod at the wire while clocking 1:42.45.

"For some reason, he relaxed today," winning jockey Frank Alvarado said. "From the 3/8ths pole, I just let him go."

Jockey Danny Sorenson offered no excuses for Capitano. "We just got beat," he said.

Winning trainer Dean Pederson said he told Alvarado to keep Now Victory under a hold from the break.

"He's such a big horse, if you let him go a jump or two, he's gone," Pederson said. "We thought in the past if he got on the lead, he'd relax, but he gets hold of the bridle and keeps going. I think we learned our lesson."

The victory was the first stakes win for the Harris Farms and Per Antonsen 5-year-old gelding. The Cal-bred earned $55,150, lifting his career earnings to $149,236 with four wins in 15 starts.