12/09/2002 1:00AM

'Packet' getting tougher


ALBANY, Calif. - Wednesday's co-feature at Golden Gate Fields is a $20,000 claimer at one mile for 3-year-olds that will include Red Packet, who has won three straight since he was gelded.

Sired by Bonus Money out of the Alydar mare Oriental Avenue, Red Packet has run seven times. He made his debut May 18 in a $20,000 maiden claimer at Bay Meadows, finishing seventh. He came back one month later to finish fourth at the $12,500 level. He ran twice at the fairs, finishing second at the bottom $8,000 level at Pleasanton and second again in a $12,500 race at Santa Rosa.

After that, he was gelded and his form improved markedly.

Running in a $12,500 maiden race in his next start, Red Packet won and was claimed. He won for a $20,000 tag and then was dropped to $12,500; he won again and was claimed.

Armando Lage, Red Packet's original trainer, said the decision to geld him was made because Red Packet was "very, very high strung.

"It's strange," Lage said. "The dam has produced only two males. They were stone runners, but both had the same problems, and his half-brother is also a gelding. I have a half-sister, and she's very nice."

Leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer claimed Red Packet from his maiden win.

Hollendorfer got two wins from Red Packet and lost him last time to trainer Bill Morey, who claimed him for client Gene Johnson. "The owner picked him out," Morey said. "We liked his stretchout runs after the gelding."

Morey likes the way Red Packet has worked for him.

All three trainers agree that the decision to geld usually becomes easy to make, although Hollendorfer says it's an individual thing.

"It's not tough," Lage said. "With [Red Packet], we waited and gave him chances."

Gold Rush coming up tough

Northern California's two top 2-year-old prospects, D's Bertrando and Buddy Gil, head the field for Saturday's $75,000-added Gold Rush Stakes at one mile.

D's Bertrando earned a 105 Beyer, the highest of the year for a 2-year-old, when he won his maiden here Nov. 9. Buddy Gil won the Golden Bear Stakes at six furlongs here Nov. 24.

Trainer Bob Baffert will send Spensive north and has named Julie Krone to ride. Allwood is also slated to run.

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