08/03/2009 12:00AM

Shem gallops in Grace at Santa Rosa


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Although odds-on Shem ($3.40) didn't get as easy a lead as expected, he slowed the pace and had enough left in the stretch to hold off Eager Pharisien to score his first stakes victory in the $56,000 Joseph T. Grace Handicap on Sunday at the Sonoma County Fair.

Shem relaxed nicely under Frank Alvarado, setting easy fractions of 24.79 seconds, 50.18, and 1:14.79 while holding a half-length lead over Awesome Jared.

He accelerated into the lane while racing off the rail and cruised home to a half-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile turf race in 1:44.48, covering the final five-sixteenths in 29.69 seconds.

Eager Pharisien, last during the first six furlongs on the race, closed well for second but had too much ground to make up. He was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Taco Willy, who passed stablemate Awesome Jared late for third.

The victory was worth $31,000 to the 5-year-old son of Stormin Fever and lifted his career earnings to $194,526. He is owned by Ward and Roberta Williford and trained by Steve Specht.