10/17/2004 11:00PM

Sea Wolf investors lend school a hand


SAN MATEO, Calif. - About 90 owners with Sea Wolf Stable turned out Saturday to cheer for their first-time starter, Seawolf.

For many of the investors, Saturday was their first trip to a racetrack, and a good time was seemingly had by all, even though Seawolf bled and finished seventh, avoiding last by a neck.

The Sea Wolf Stable was started by Russ Gardiner, an assistant athletic director at Sonoma State, a Division II school in Rhonert Park, just south of Santa Rosa. The school's mascot is a sea wolf.

In an effort to raise funds for the school's athletic department, Gardiner offered a pair of yearlings for syndication after purchasing them at the Barretts sale last October. He sold 100 shares in each colt for $1,000 each, with half the money going to the school's athletic department and the other half being used to pay for the colts and their training expenses through their 2- and 3-year-old campaigns.

Seawolf was the first of the two to start. Sonoma Slew, the other colt, suffered a quarter crack but is due to arrive at trainer Art Sherman's barn at Golden Gate Fields when the track opens next month.

Gerald McMahon, the president of Barretts and also Gardiner's brother-in-law, encouraged Gardiner's idea and provided him with insights into horse ownership. Breeders Tom Bachman and Mrs. Robert Walter and Jim Ghidella, northern California's representative of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, also offered their insights.

Gardiner is working on the syndication of a third colt, Irish Dodger, second to Danny Dingle in his debut at Santa Rosa this summer, and said he is hoping a yearling filly will be donated for syndication. In addition, three investors want to buy a horse of their own and have promised to donate 20 percent of future earnings to the school.

Baze scores with $100 longshot

Getting 2-1 on a horse ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze is a rare occurrence in northern California. Getting a double-digit return is even more rare.

Imagine the surprise, then, when Baze guided Our Mango to a $100.20 victory at the California Cup on Saturday.

"I haven't done that since 1977 or '78 at Arlington Park, when I rode a horse that paid $120," Baze said.

Both Baze and trainer Steve Specht were surprised at the payoff.

"I thought it set up good for her," Specht said. "There was nothing in the race to say you have no chance. Probably the best ones were 3-year-olds, and when 3-year-olds step up into competition with older, they're stepping into another ballgame."

Baze said his only concern after Specht told him to come from off the pace was that Our Mango broke so sharply.

"I hoped she wouldn't want to run off, but she came back to me real nice," said Baze. "We got over and had a nice trip around the turn, and a big hole opened up for her to go through."

Baze was also third aboard defending champ Green Team in the Sprint and second aboard the maiden Cee's Irish in the Juvenile Fillies.

"I didn't have anyplace to go on the turn with Green Team, and the others got the jump on me," Baze said. "The filly was a maiden, and I thought she'd get there, but she got tired the last couple jumps."

Kingdom Come set for derby

Southern California trainer Patrick Gallagher was thinking ahead when he sent Kingdom Come north to run in a $50,000 optional claimer against older at 1 1/16 miles on the turf Saturday.

The Grade 3, $100,000 Bay Meadows Derby will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf on Nov. 6, and Kingdom Come's wire-to-wire victory Saturday makes him a strong candidate to come back for that race.

"That's the plan," Gallagher said. "That was a nice performance. He kept going right down to the wire."

Kingdom Come may not be the only Gallagher nominee. He runs Talaris in Wednesday's Bay Meadows feature, a $40,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf against his own age group.

Talaris graduated on the turf at Golden Gate Fields and lost by a nose to Lava Man on the Bay Meadows course before finishing fifth in his last start, July 5 at Hollywood Park.

He has worked well for his return and looms the one to beat, although the Specht-trained French Roast is coming off a victory over the course.

"He got a little body-sore last summer, but he's come back good," Gallagher said. "Obviously, the derby would be something we'd be looking at, too, with him if he runs well."

Fair's final day canceled

Heavy rain forced cancellation of the final day of the Big Fresno Fair on Sunday. Dan White, the director of racing, met with horsemen, jockeys, and stewards, and the decision was made at 10 a.m. Three stakes races scheduled for Sunday - one for mules, one for Quarter Horses, and the $50,000 Bull Dog for Thoroughbreds - were not run.

"We were concerned about safety for the jockeys and horses," White said. "We didn't want to risk someone getting hurt."

A $3,814 carryover for the pick six, which was to be paid out Sunday, will be placed in an interest-earning account and be used as a carryover on the opening day of the 2005 meet.