09/24/2007 12:00AM

Pederson grabs his first graded win

EmailSAN MATEO, Calif. - What started as a gray, rainy day at Bay Meadows on Saturday turned out to be a perfect afternoon for Now Victory as he won the Grade 3, $140,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap.

While there were no rainbows to be seen, there was a $90,000 pot of gold in the winner's circle for owners John Harris and Per Antonsen, and $64.60 at the mutuel windows for those betting on the 6-year-old gelding.

Now Victory did his usual thing, taking control of the race early under Frank Alvarado. He relaxed nicely, rated perfectly, and was never seriously challenged as Jack's Wild, who beat him in the California Turf Championship on Aug. 25, rallied nicely from last to be second in the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes.

The victory was all the sweeter for trainer Dean Pederson because it was his first in a graded stakes, as well as Now Victory's first graded win.

Naturally, there were smiles all around and plenty of joking in the winner's circle.

"Is this one of those races that automatically qualifies you for the Breeders' Cup?" Harris asked with a wide grin.

"I hope not," said Pederson, who simply wanted to savor the moment.

Now Victory has good speed, and Alvarado, who began a three-day suspension Sunday, took advantage of the fact that no one seemed to want the lead.

"We were looking at the Racing Form, and it looked like there was some other speed in the race," Alvarado said. "Dean told me, 'Play it by ear. If they want to give you the lead, take it.' That's what I did. I saw a couple guys take hold, and I went."

From there on, it was clear sailing as Now Victory relaxed nicely.

Because of the rain, the course was listed as good. Michael Baze, who rode favored Isipingo, and Russell Baze, aboard second-choice Bold Chieftain, said their horses had a little trouble on the softer course.

Alvarado said the course didn't seem soft to him.

"We were a little concerned because, if anything, a softer course after a rain might not work in the favor of a speed horse, but it didn't seem to bother him," Harris said of Now Victory.

"I think Bay Meadows made a wise decision taking the earlier races off the turf," Pederson said. "With that rain, you don't want the course chewed up before your better horses get on it."

The Cal Cup Mile on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita seems the logical next stop.

"I'm not as concerned about shipping him any more," said Pederson, whose patient handling has helped calm Now Victory. "When we got him, he was a bit of a handful, but when he came back this spring after we sent him to the farm, he's come back a much more relaxed horse. The time off seemed to help his mind-set, and my exercise rider Gregorio Arriaga has done a good job with him, too."

Derby field shaping up

A solid field seems to be taking shape for Saturday's $75,000 Bay Meadows Derby, which drew 16 nominations.

The connections of four 3-year-olds have said they are definitely planning to run in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

The Art Sherman-trained Knockout Artist, who is 2 for 3 on the turf and won the fastest division of the Oceanside at Del Mar on July 18, will get the services of leading jockey Russell Baze.

Mostacolli Mort, seeking his first stakes win, comes north for trainer Julio Canani.

Stakes-placed Unusual Suspect, fourth ahead of Knockout Artist in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept.o2, will run for trainer Barry Abrams.

The Ed Moger Jr.-trained Zoning In, whose maiden win came in the Malcolm Anderson Stakes at Bay Meadows, will also run.

Bwana Bull, who pulled off a California Derby-El Camino Real Derby double this spring, was nominated, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer called him a doubtful participant.

Bootleg Annie extends turf streak

The 3-year-old filly Bootleg Annie scored a 3 1/2-length victory in a $40,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf Sunday. The win was her sixth straight on the turf and eighth in her last nine starts.

Since being claimed by Dan Morgan from a $5,000 maiden claimer at Turf Paradise on Feb. 9, Bootleg Annie, the daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin and stakes-winning Shu Biz Annie, has run eight times on turf, winning seven races and finishing third in her other start. Included among her victories was the Wende Stakes at Turf Paradise.

Since coming to Northern California, she has been claimed twice, by Hollendorfer and current trainer Billy Morey.

Surprisingly, she was not the favorite, and returned $7.80 with favored Lady in Love second.

Kendrick's Patsy heads feature

Six fillies and mares are scheduled to run in Wednesday's Bay Meadows feature, a $25,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Kendrick's Patsy, claimed for $25,000 from a win two back, seems the likely favorite with six turf victories, two coming over the Bay Meadows turf and two, along with two seconds in four starts, at this distance. The field includes Razyana Royalty, who just beat a starter allowance field; Family Talents; and Chestnut Affair, who won two starts back.