10/23/2002 12:00AM

Saint Marden steps it up

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After impressive wins in allowance races, Saint Marden took his game to another level on Wednesday by winning the opening-day feature at Aqueduct, the $114,000 Discovery Handicap.

A crowd of 3,745 was in attendance for the nine-race card, which was run under sunny but brisk conditions.

Saint Marden, the 3-5 favorite under Jerry Bailey, was a 1 1/2-length winner over Regency Park. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to No Parole in third in the 10-horse field of 3-year-olds.

Completing the order of finish were Strive, This Guns for Hire, Regal Sanction, A.P. Five Hundred, Richierichierich, Babson, and Thunder Days.

Saint Marden raced in third position down the backstretch of the 1 1/8-mile Discovery behind This Guns for Hire and Regal Sanction. Saint Marden moved up around the far turn and drew clear with a furlong remaining from the tiring This Guns for Hire, who brushed the rail in upper stretch.

Saint Marden ($3.40) covered the distance in 1:49.13 over a fast track.

Bailey said, "He had enough speed to get a good spot going into the turn. On paper, it looked like one or two were a bit faster than him early on and that's how it played it out." Trained by Michael Matz, who is based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Saint Marden is owned by Martin Schwartz and Dennis Drazin.

In his lone stakes start before the Discovery, Saint Marden finished eighth in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga in August. Matz said the Saint Ballado colt probably didn't care for the slop that day.

"I think he was that class of horse," Matz said. "Maybe it was a bit too soon for him and certainly the slop didn't help.

"Knock on wood, I think we are going to have a pretty nice 4-year-old."

Matz had no specific plans for Saint Marden, whom he said would winter in Florida.