10/18/2006 12:00AM

Pragmatico still strong at age 8

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - When a horse has run as long and as well as Pragmatico, age becomes irrelevant.

That's what trainer Armando Lage thought when he claimed the 8-year-old gelding for $20,000 from a victory in his last start.

Pragmatico makes his first start for Lage in a $40,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs at Bay Meadows Friday, the first of four Friday night racing cards. First post is at 7:20 p.m., and there is $1 grandstand admission and $1 beer, soda, hot dogs, and programs.

Lage's claim marked the third time in his past five starts that Pragmatico has been taken. Before Lage took Pragmatico he was claimed by Jerry Hollendorfer and re-claimed by Billy Morey.

"I was very surprised I was the only one that filled out a claim slip," Lage said.

"This was the first time I tried to claim him. It seemed like he was always running for $32,000. He's rock-solid."

Pragmatico drew post 5 in the field of six as he goes for his eighth win of the year.

"The post helps a lot because there's a lot of speed inside him," Lage said. "He has good speed, but he doesn't have to have the lead."

Emerald Downs invader Black Jack Joe likes the front end and is capable of running a half-mile in 44 and change. Wild Wes, who has good speed, drew the rail, which probably forces him to go early, and he has shaded 44 for the half. Eastern Accent, a stakes winner at Portland Meadows, has shown speed before.

Pragmatico will likely sit just off the pace and get first run on Olympic Miler, who has also been popular at the claim box and is stepping up off a claim. Pragmatico's stablemate Rush Country will likely be last early before kicking into gear late.

"You don't need to go wire to wire to win at this distance," Lage said. "Sometimes, because it's shorter, jockeys hustle their horses early, and that can set it up for someone else."

* Russell Baze bobbleheads will be given out Saturday and, in a change of plans, Baze will ride here that day. Baze, who is expected to surpass Laffit Pincay Jr. as the world's winningest rider sometime during the meet, was originally scheduled to go to Laurel Park in Maryland to ride Victorina in the $200,000 Safely Kept.