02/11/2002 1:00AM

Red Power following footsteps of his brother


ALBANY, Calif. - Some classy older horses meet in Golden Gate Fields feature Wednesday when stakes winners Mellow Fellow and Highland Gold head a field of seven in a six-furlong $80,000 optional claiming race.

At one time, they were two of the West Coast's best sprinters - Highland Gold defeated Mellow Fellow to win the 2000 Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park. They are still tough customers. Mellow Fellow enters with a three-race win streak, including a victory in the Montclair Handicap over this track in his last start.

In the co-feature, Red Power may be one worth watching.

The half brother of stakes-winning Reds Superstar, Red Power, a 4-year-old gelding, has made only three starts heading into this starter allowance for nonwinners of two. California Derby winner All Thee Power sired Red Power. Falstaff sired Reds Superstar. The Gallant Best mare Red Weather is the dam of both.

"Everybody who was associated with [Red Power] said he was better than the other horse [Red Superstar]," trainer John Buc said, "but I don't want to get too high on him yet."

Reds Superstar won 6 of 16 starts, including the Alamedan Handicap and Governors Handicap on the fair circuit last summer. He earned more than $200,000 before he injured a knee during a workout just before he was going to run in Cal Cup last fall. He is still recuperating on a ranch and won't return to Buc's barn until late summer or early fall.

In the meantime, Red Power may prove a more than acceptable substitute.

He was second in his debut for a $25,000 claiming tag on Nov. 16. He was a good fourth in a contentious straight maiden race in his second start. He made an explosive move into the lane in his third start, graduating by six lengths while earning a 92 Beyer.

"He's been just great for me," Buc said. "The other day I thought he'd win, but I didn't expect that."

Buc said bad luck kept Red Power from making his debut sooner.

"He had shin problems, and they always cropped up when he was close to making a start," Buc said.

Although Red Power has always been "kind to train," Buc said that the horse is just beginning to figure out the racing game.

"After he raced, there was a little more want-to-go-to-the-track in him," Buc said. "Since the win, he's calmed down and is quieter training. He's become more professional."

Though Buc likes what he's seen, he's still reserving judgment on Red Power. "Just because the other horse was something doesn't mean this one will develop the same way," he said.

"I'd like to run him through his conditions like the other horse. After this start, I'll probably look to stretch him out."

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