12/27/2002 12:00AM

Pocketfullofpesos chalks up another one for ex-claimers


ARCADIA, Calif. - The opening week of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting has been very kind to ex-claimers trying stakes.

On Thursday, Debonair Joe won the $200,000 Malibu Stakes after being claimed for $12,500 at Fairplex Park on September 20.

On Friday, Pocketfullofpesos, claimed for $40,000 at Hollywood Park on Nov. 9, won her third consecutive race in the fillies division of the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes.

Pocketfullofpesos ran seven furlongs in 1:23.16, beating Long Term Wish. Denali Cat finished third after leading in early stretch. Humorous Lady, the 7-5 favorite in the field of 10 California-breds, finished sixth.

Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Pocketfullofpesos was fourth early, challenged Denali Cat in early stretch and won by three lengths.

Pocketfullofpesos races for the partnership of Phil Belmonte, Hank Cohen, Sean Gerson, Dave Gould, and Barry Shapiro. Gerson owns 50 percent.

Trainer Mike Mitchell spotted Pocketfullofpesos last month and quickly put together an ownership group after Gerson committed his support.

"I told my owners that if she looked good I would take her," Mitchell said.

Previously trained by Bob Baffert, Pocketfullofpesos won the day she was claimed and returned on Dec. 7 to win a starter allowance for ex-claimers.

Even though she was making her stakes debut, there was support for Pocketfullofpesos. She opened at 5-2 before going off at 9-1.

"I think seven-eighths is perfect for her," Mitchell said. "In all her works, she finishes real nice. She doesn't have to have the lead."