12/10/2002 12:00AM

Pace edge to Cash Creek

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ALBANY, Calif. - Cash Creek returns to the races at Golden Gate on Thursday, meeting eight other 2-year-olds in the co-feature, a $25,000 claiming race at six furlongs.

Cash Creek has led at the first call in all three of his career starts, and he figures to be among the early leaders again when he makes his first start in more than five months.

Cash Creek is likely to face an early challenge from Seamster, a winner of two straight who is drawn outside him. Enter Twice is another contender who has shown speed, and Demon Warlock was an impressive maiden winner in his last start with a perfect stalking trip.

Cash Creek was second in his debut in a two-furlong race here on March 28. He beat multiple stakes winner Taraval in a two-furlong race April 18 at Bay Meadows.

In his next start, Cash Creek set a fast pace in the Everett Nevin-Alameda County Futurity, but faded to fourth in the stretch as Taraval won his second straight stakes race.

"He shin-bucked in the race and needed time to get over it," Cash Creek's trainer, Doug Utley, said.

Although Utley said the stakes try was okay - considering how badly Cash Creek, a gelding, shin-bucked - he will run him for a claiming tag for the first time.

"I've got five [2-year-olds] I own myself," Utley said. "You've got to run them where they belong, and I've got a couple others I think are better."

Utley doesn't want to lose Cash Creek, but as the breeder and owner of Cash Creek, as well as of his sire and dam, he would continue to pick up checks for breeders' and stallion awards.

"I lost Skip a Payment for $20,000 in his debut, but I'm still his biggest fan," said Utley, who also bred that colt.

Utley said he has a full sister to Cash Creek at his ranch and hopes to bring her to the track shortly after the new year.

"Everything out of that mare has a lot of speed, and she's a March foal," he said. "I think she'll be ready to run in one of those early [two-furlong] races."

- Volunteers are being sought to help at the annual Christmas party for grooms and their families to be held on Thursday, Dec. 19.

Unwrapped gifts, to be picked up on Dec. 19, can be left in special bins around the plant or tax-deductible checks can be made to Race Track Chaplaincy. Volunteers can contact Sonya Nommsen at 510-559-7300 extension 7413.

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