02/05/2002 12:00AM

Pederson has his latest claim in right spot

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ALBANY, Calif. - There's a reason trainer Dean Pederson has one of the highest winning percentages among northern California trainers.

"One thing I try to do is put my horses in position to win," he said.

Pederson isn't sure recently claimed Honey Mustard Girl can win Thursday's feature at Golden Gate Fields, but he believes she has a chance in the $25,000 claiming race for older fillies and mares over six furlongs.

Pederson claimed Honey Mustard Girl for $20,000 out of a winning race on Jan. 18 from trainer Art Sherman for himself and Silverado Springs Stable.

"I liked all those 1's next to her name," Pederson said, explaining the claim. "She's been as consistent as anyone you've seen around here the last two or three months."

Honey Mustard Girl has won five of her past six sprints and finished third in the other. Her only poor performance came when she faded badly in the mud in a one-mile allowance race. Honey Mustard Girl, who has won six of 14 lifetime starts, won for $6,250 and moved up the claiming ladder. She won for Thursday's $25,000 tag once and twice won for $20,000, her price the day Pederson claimed her.

"She's very consistent and obviously worth every bit of $20,000," Pederson said. "When I look to claim a horse, the biggest thing is consistency."

A 4-year-old filly, Honey Mustard Girl could be a good broodmare prospect, but that played no role in Pederson's decision to claim her.

"I'm not in the breeding business," he said. "I really wasn't that aware she was by Black Tie Affair. After I claimed her, I realized she was a Cal-bred."

There was one other reason why Pederson made the claim.

"Art Sherman lost her for $8,000 and came back and took her again for $16,000," he said. "You won't do that if there's a major hole in them. That convinced me the most."

Honey Mustard Girl likes to run up front, but she may be hard-pressed to get the early lead in Thursday's race. Among those who may try to run with her is Rich Domino, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

"This is a very competitive race," Pederson said, adding that Rich Domino "is very, very fast, but my filly has shown she can duel and still finish."

Pederson believes he has another advantage going into the race.

"We were able to get Russell [Baze] back on her, and he's gotten all her wins," Pederson said. "He knows her. What kind of instructions am I going to give him? I'm just going to shake his hand and say, 'Good luck.'"

Pederson has had success with recently claimed horses. Last week, he won with Pazhalsta, whom he had just claimed from Roy Lumm.

But as Pederson says, it's about putting horses in the right spot.

He did that last weekend with his stakes-winning filly Super Tuesday, sending her to Santa Anita to run in the Pro or Con Handicap against Cal-breds instead of staying home to try Grade 1 winner Janet in the Brown Bess Handicap.

It was the right call, even though Super Tuesday ran third.

"We made the right choice, but it didn't work out," Pederson said. "I think I ran the best horse [in the Pro or Con]. She didn't stay close early and had to run so wide to get a clear path it took its toll, but the bottom line is excuses are for losers. I thought she ran well, even though we were disappointed by the end result. But she's come a long way, and she's home, her legs are cool and she ate everything up.

"The bottom line is, it's hard to win races."

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