02/27/2003 12:00AM

Older, slower Shark keeps on running

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ALBANY, Calif. - The Barking Shark's bite might not be what it once was, but at age 10 he is still fighting the good fight.

Six years ago, The Barking Shark was a Big Cap horse. Today, he is a $5,000 claimer - and the lone member of the 1997 Santa Anita Handicap field still running.

The Barking Shark, who has a win and a second in two starts this year, was claimed - for the second time in three months - out of his last race.

Marcelo Polanco was his trainer when as a 3-year-old in 1996 he ran second in four straight stakes. He was beaten by a total of fewer than four lengths in the Oceanside, Grade 3 LaJolla Handicap, Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, and Grade 1 Super Derby.

He finished second for Polanco in the Strub Stakes the next year and and then ran in the Santa Anita Handicap. He pressed the pace through the opening six furlongs before fading to 10th behind the one-two-three sweep by Richard Mandella trainees Siphon, Sandpit, and Gentlemen.

"It's amazing he's still around," Polanco said. "There's not too many that make it this long. I couldn't believe it when I saw he won and was claimed. Sometimes I think he deserves better."

The Barking Shark, a gelding, ran in 27 stakes, winning only two, the $38,000 Ruidoso Sale Futurity at Sunland Park in New Mexico at age 2 and the $12,000 Old Line Policy at Turf Paradise at 3.

He was second in seven stakes, including the $200,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap in September 1998.

He has not run in a stakes race since July 1999, when he was seventh in the Sam J. Whiting at Pleasanton.

The Barking Shark has his share of problems. He survived a life-threatening bout with pneumonia when his temperature reached 104 degrees, and a broken cannon bone required eight screws to repair it.

"After the last time they sent him to the farm, the plan was to make him a pony," said Armando Lage, who trained The Barking Shark when he was sent to northern California.

"The owner visited him, and he was looking better and better so he decided to give him another shot. I wasn't happy about that."

A group of concerned horsemen, headed by Brad Murray, who have claimed or purchased other horses in order to retire them are trying to do that with The Barking Shark.

The Barking Shark likes life at the track, Polanco said.

"He loves to be at the track, loves to train. He's a professional," Polanco said."Horses like that don't come around too often.

"When he'd go to the track, he knows it means business, but when he comes back, he loves to eat and loves his carrots. He was a horse with personality, a very good horse to be around."

Dean Pederson claimed The Barking Shark for $6,250 on Nov. 20, 2002, for Robert D. Bone. He won with him twice and finished second once before losing him for $5,000 to trainer Ed Moger Jr. on Feb. 9.

"He's a classy horse," Pederson said. "You could tell he'd been there, done that. He did the best he could, granted at a different level. As long as he runs good and pulls up good, what's age mean?"

Jockey Adalberto Lopez rode The Barking Shark in his past three races.

"If he's got any problems, it doesn't feel like it. He's easy to ride, as smooth as can be for a 10-year-old," Lopez said. "He's an old horse, and he knows what to do. He gives you everything he's got."

ALBANY, Calif. - The Barking Shark's bite might not be what it once was, but at age 10 he is still fighting the good fight.

Six years ago, The Barking Shark was a Big Cap horse. Today, he is a $5,000 claimer - and the lone member of the 1997 Santa Anita Handicap field still running.

The Barking Shark, who has a win and a second in two starts this year, was claimed - for the second time in three months - out of his last race.

Marcelo Polanco was his trainer when as a 3-year-old in 1996 he ran second in four straight stakes. He was beaten by a total of fewer than four lengths in the Oceanside, Grade 3 LaJolla Handicap, Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, and Grade 1 Super Derby.

He finished second for Polanco in the Strub Stakes the next year and and then ran in the Santa Anita Handicap. He pressed the pace through the opening six furlongs before fading to 10th behind the one-two-three sweep by Richard Mandella trainees Siphon, Sandpit, and Gentlemen.

"It's amazing he's still around," Polanco said. "There's not too many that make it this long. I couldn't believe it when I saw he won and was claimed. Sometimes I think he deserves better."

The Barking Shark, a gelding, ran in 27 stakes, winning only two, the $38,000 Ruidoso Sale Futurity at Sunland Park in New Mexico at age 2 and the $12,000 Old Line Policy at Turf Paradise at 3.

He was second in seven stakes, including the $200,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap in September 1998.

He has not run in a stakes race since July 1999, when he was seventh in the Sam J. Whiting at Pleasanton.

The Barking Shark has his share of problems. He survived a life-threatening bout with pneumonia when his temperature reached 104 degrees, and a broken cannon bone required eight screws to repair it.

"After the last time they sent him to the farm, the plan was to make him a pony," said Armando Lage, who trained The Barking Shark when he was sent to northern California.

"The owner visited him, and he was looking better and better so he decided to give him another shot. I wasn't happy about that."

A group of concerned horsemen, headed by Brad Murray, who have claimed or purchased other horses in order to retire them are trying to do that with The Barking Shark.

The Barking Shark likes life at the track, Polanco said.

"He loves to be at the track, loves to train. He's a professional," Polanco said."Horses like that don't come around too often.

"When he'd go to the track, he knows it means business, but when he comes back, he loves to eat and loves his carrots. He was a horse with personality, a very good horse to be around."

Dean Pederson claimed The Barking Shark for $6,250 on Nov. 20, 2002, for Robert D. Bone. He won with him twice and finished second once before losing him for $5,000 to trainer Ed Moger Jr. on Feb. 9.

"He's a classy horse," Pederson said. "You could tell he'd been there, done that. He did the best he could, granted at a different level. As long as he runs good and pulls up good, what's age mean?"

Jockey Adalberto Lopez rode The Barking Shark in his past three races.

"If he's got any problems, it doesn't feel like it. He's easy to ride, as smooth as can be for a 10-year-old," Lopez said. "He's an old horse, and he knows what to do. He gives you everything he's got."