04/20/2002 12:00AM

Raging Fever holds off Atelier


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Raging Fever overcame a sloppy track and a surprising early pace challenge from Atelier to win Saturday's Grade 3, $158,300 Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap by three-quarters of a length before 5,648 at Aqueduct.

Atelier finished second, 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Shiny Band. Critical Eye, Belle Artiste, and Senora Claudia completed the order of finish.

It was the ninth victory (eighth stakes) in 13 starts and fourth win in her last five starts for Raging Fever, a 4-year-old daughter of Storm Cat owned and bred by Edward Evans. The $94,980 first-place purse pushed Raging Fever's career earnings to $956,365.

On paper, Raging Fever looked like the controlling speed under John Velazquez. After running an opening quarter in 23.90 seconds, Raging Fever was passed briefly from the inside by Atelier, under Edgar Prado.

Raging Fever forged back into the lead midway around the turn, and opened up two lengths turning for home. Despite getting tired late, Raging Fever had more than enough left to hold off a resurgent Atelier. Raging Fever covered the mile in 1:34.96 and returned $3 to win.

"I was glad to see her relax and settle and let that horse go," trainer Mark Hennig said. "I really think she's matured a lot. If somebody wants to blast off and go, she will sit second or third or whatever she has to do. She made such a big middle move there I think that might have got to her the last 50 yards or so."

Velazquez said Raging Fever got to loafing a little bit down the stretch.

"She's the type of horse when she gets to the eighth pole she's going to get lazy," Velazquez said. "You have to stay busy on her because she starts wandering."

Despite the loss, trainer Shug McGaughey said he was pleased with Atelier's effort.

"This is not our ball game," McGaughey said of pressing the pace. "She's come a long way in the last five or six days. If she keeps going this way, we'll be back in the ball game pretty good."

Raging Fever will most likely make her next start in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 18.