07/30/2005 12:00AM

Penny Ante pulls off surprise in Luther Burbank Handicap


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Penny Ante ($13) withstood a strong challenge from 2-to-5 shot Pickle in the lane Saturday as she won the $60,750 Luther Burbank Handicap in the first turf stakes race ever run at the Sonoma County Fair.

Avoiding a plastic garbage bag that drifted onto the course as the gates opened, Penny Ante grabbed the lead in the opening quarter but was content to let longshot Musical Review grab the lead coming out of the first turn. She stalked nicely and reclaimed the lead without being asked on the second turn.

The heavily favored Pickle, who sat in fifth down the backstretch, loomed up as the field turned for home, getting to within a head of Penny Ante, who dug in and wound up winning the 1 1/16-mile race by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:43.37. Lucky Sabre was another length back in third.

"We pointed to this race," said winning trainer William E. Morey, who claimed the 4-year-old filly for himself and Stewball Stable for $32,000 on May 29 and ran her in a $62,500 optional claimer on June 18 when she finished second on the turf at Golden Gate Fields.

"When Pickle was failing to get in contention down the backside, I thought we'd have a chance. I knew my filly was really fit. I just told Frank to let her run her race."

Winning jockey Frank Alvarado said his filly relaxed nicely and wasn't concerned when Musical Review took the lead down the backstretch.

"(Otto) Arriaga was really asking her. I wasn't going to go head-and-head with him. She got the lead back on her own at the 3/8ths pole," Alvarado said. "You could see how relaxed my filly was running. When I saw Pickle come up, I said, 'Dang,' but my filly really dug in."

Russell Baze, Pickle's rider, offered no excuse and said he had a good trip.

"Penny Ante's tough when she gets on the lead. She will become a bulldog if you don't go by her real quick."

Penny Ante earned $35,850 and has a lifetime bankroll of $173,512 with six wins in 19 starts.