06/07/2002 11:00PM

Palmeiro wins All American

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Palmeiro ($7.40) survived a pace duel with Prodigious and held off late-closing Moonlight Meeting to win the $150,000 All American Handicap (G3) at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

The 4-year-old gelding went head-and-head with Prodigious through the first six furlongs of the race and opened a 2.5-length lead in the stretch. Moonlight Meeting cut into the lead, but Palmeiro held him off by three-quarters of a length to win the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:42.31.

"For this horse, head-and-head is the right thing," winning trainer John Sadler said. "He likes the head-and-head stuff. He loves to be up fighting. He gets bored behind horses or if he gets too far in front."

Palmeiro was considered a Derby candidate early last year but dropped off the trail, winding up in optional claiming races. He tried the Strub Stakes (G2) in February and was beaten badly.

After that race, Sadler convinced Palmeiro's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss, to geld their $140,000 1999 Keeneland yearling purchase.

In his first start after being gelded, he was third in the Berkeley Handicap (G3) at Golden Gate Fields on March 30. He came back to win a May 8 Hollywood Park allowance race.

"This is his third race as a gelding," Sadler said. "We think that did the trick. He ran a good third and two strong races since. For this horse, we thought it was the thing to do.

"If you look at the charts, you'd see he'd lug in or take the lead and hang. He's a huge horse and was getting thicker and thicker. He looked more like (Baltimore linebacker) Ray Lewis than a quarterback."

Jason Lumpkins earned his seventh stakes victory of the meeting aboard Palmeiro.

"My instructions were to lay closer than last time (in the Berkeley)," he said. "I knew they were cooking, but he got the job done."

Palmeiro has won four of 17 starts. He earned $82,500 to lift his career earnings to $341,240.