02/28/2004 1:00AM

Seattle Borders victorious in Baldwin

Seattle Borders wins by one length over Stalking Tiger on Saturday in the Baldwin Stakes at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - When Minister Eric could not draw into the body of Saturday's $113,350 at Santa Anita, jockey Alex Solis ended up on his back-up ride, Seattle Borders. The scenario played out ideally. Seattle Borders, making his first start for trainer Bobby Frankel, rallied down the middle of the course to catch pacesetter Stalking Tiger in the Grade 3 turf sprint for 3-year-olds.

Seattle Borders ($12.60) won by one length over Stalking Tiger, with Jungle Prince another half-length back in third. Saint Afleet, who went off the 8-5 favorite in the absence of Minister Eric, was fourth.

"It was meant for me to win the race," Solis said. "What a nice horse this is. This is the first time I've seen him, and I already love him."

Seattle Borders had not raced since scoring a win against maidens at Delaware Park in October in his fifth career start. He subsequently was acquired by Frankel on behalf of owner Ed Gann, for whom Frankel has purchased the likes of Medaglia d'Oro, Peace Rules, and You after they began their careers with other trainers.

Seattle Borders, by the Gone West stallion Western Borders, completed the about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:14.09. He has now won twice in six starts.

Minister Eric, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, ended up on the also-eligible list through bad luck at the draw. He did not make it into the body of the race at scratch time on Friday. Under current rules, Minister Eric could only have been allowed into the race after Friday's scratch time had the Baldwin moved from the turf to the dirt, according to Mike Harlow, Santa Anita's director of racing.

Richard Mandella, Minister Eric's trainer, handled the situation with grace. "The way the rule is written, what can you do?" he said. Mandella said he would look for an allowance race for his colt instead.