08/27/2007 11:00PM

Old-timer a good fit at the level

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Motel Staff has earned respect. But, more important, he has earned admiration. The 10-year-old will make his third start off a comeback as he gears up for his second straight victory against eight rivals Thursday at Bay Meadows in a $16,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

"He's lost a step or two now," trainer Cliff Delima said, "but at $12,500 or $16,000, he can win."

Motel Staff has raced 55 times, winning 21 races. He became stakes-placed when he finished second in the Pacifica Handicap at 1 1/16 mile on the turf on Oct. 31, 2004.

"He does everything right," Delima said.

Jockey Roberto Gonzalez has won aboard Motel Staff five times.

"It's nice because he has another gear when you turn for home, but he can rate," Gonzalez said. "He's a very professional horse. You look at his legs, and they're like 2-year-olds' legs."

Noting that he had won on the last day of the Bay Meadows Fair, Aug.o19, with Motel Staff's 3-year-old full brother, Crafty Power, Gonzalez said, "Motel Staff looks like Crafty Power's little brother."

Francisco Duran knows Motel Staff well. He rode him 22 times, recording 10 wins.

"He was always one of my favorites," Duran said. "He really tries."

Although Delima wants to run Motel Staff only on the softer turf, where he is 15-7-1 from 31 starts, and not on the harder main tracks, he took him to Prairie Meadows in Iowa this spring even though there's no turf racing there.

"I like him around and wanted to keep an eye on him," Delima said. "If I'd left him here, I would have had to start up with him when I got back this summer. I wouldn't want to leave him with anyone else. He has a knee, and they might want to inject it.

"I just give him ice and plenty of time. Once you start giving them cortisone, they go downhill."

Motel Staff is far from going downhill. He was 4 for 5 last year, even winning for a $40,000 claiming price.

He has 1 win and 2 seconds in 5 starts this year, doing little in his first start of 2007 on dirt or his comeback at Santa Rosa.

Also entered Thursday are Royal Okie, who beat Motel Staff in his comeback; Franklin Tower, who is also coming off a victory; and Kaiser Road, who should flash his speed from the rail.

But it's the old pro they'll have to beat.