08/04/2004 12:00AM

Sarafan wins Escondido Handicap


DEL MAR, Calif. - Aside from a victory in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap in 2002, Sarafan has given owner Gary Tanaka a tidy collection of trophies from minor handicaps at Del Mar.

Sarafan won the 2001 and 2003 Brubaker handicaps and Wednesday scored the sixth stakes win of his career in the $79,000 Escondido Handicap.

The victory left trainer Neil Drysdale considering the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 29 for Sarafan, a 7-year-old gelding.

"It was nice to see the old horse win," Drysdale said. "We thought this would be a confidence booster."

Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Sarafan stalked pacesetter Gene de Campeao to the end of the backstretch, rallied wide on the final turn and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Part of a favored entry with Pellegrino, Sarafan ($3.40) finished 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.92. Gene de Campeao held second, finishing a length in front of Outta Here in the field of six.

Sarafan has won 10 of 42 starts and $2,488,671. The restricted Escondido Handicap was his second start of the meeting, preceded by a seventh in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on July 25.

Drysdale dismissed that result, saying that Sarafan was too far behind a modest pace and was unable to make up 10 lengths in the final half-mile. "He came out of that race bucking," he said.