02/08/2004 1:00AM

O.K. Mikie wins Golden State Mile


ALBANY, Calif. - O.K. Mikie ($10.80) scored a Cinderella victory, edging past favored Bending Strings in the final 100 yards of the $83,175 at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

The one-half length victory provided O.K. Mikie, a $25,000 claim in a six-way shake on Nov. 7, trainer Jerry McArthur and owner Charles Lo with the first stakes victories in their careers.

O.K. Mikie was last early as Point Dume set comfortable fractions of 23.28 and 46.89 seconds. He began to move up on his own at the three-eighths pole, angling between Trish's Diamond and Kilgowan.

Bending Strings, a filly making her route debut, had stalked close to the pace early and forged to the front at the quarter pole. She began to widen her margin on eventual third-place finisher Point Dume as O.K. Mikie angled out into the clear in the lane.

Jockey Adalberto Lopez gave the winner a strong ride under vigorous right-handed whipping. O.K. Mikie made up ground and switched leads late to get an extra burst that brought him past the game filly. The winning time was a moderate 1:37.49.

"This horse has a strong kick," Lopez said. "He was getting so close on his own, I tried to find room inside because I didn't want to swing wide (as he had when finishing second in the Golden Gate Derby).

"When I swung into the stretch, I knew Russell (Baze aboard Bending Strings) would be tough to get by. I didn't want to switch sticks and give him a chance to beat me."

Baze blamed Bending String's loss on inexperience.

"She was fighting with me early instead of letting me tuck her in and then waiting to make a run. She laid her body down in the stretch."

Although the track was speed favoring, McArthur told Lopez to sit back.

"Last time, he stayed close and moved a little premature," McArthur said. "I said today to just let him run his race. He's training better and getting better. When we claimed him, I said that I just hoped he'd improve and he has."

O.K. Mikie has been third in the Gold Rush, second in the Golden Gate Derby and now a stakes winner in his three races since the claim. The victory, his fourth in seven starts, was worth $49,425 to improve his career earnings to $120,125.

He will now be pointed to the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on March 13.