05/18/2004 11:00PM

'Shooter' still seeks 2004 win


SAN MATEO, Calif. - El Dorado Shooter, one of the fastest and gamest sprinters in northern California, has some questions to answer in Saturday's $55,000-added Saratoga Handicap at Bay Meadows.

The 7-year-old gelding has won 12 of 25 career starts and earned $531,740, but is winless in two disappointing starts this year, stopping badly in both races.

His last victory was an overpowering 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint last June.

His breeder and trainer, Cliff DeLima, said he is at a loss to explain why the onetime track record-holder at six furlongs at Golden Gate Fields has run last in his two starts this year, beaten by a combined 30 lengths.

He set the pace in the Danville Handicap on March 20, opening a nice lead into the lane, but gave way readily after being challenged and passed in the lane.

"I sure don't know," DeLima said when asked for an explanation. "Last time, I thought he'd run better than he did. He shocked me."

DeLima has made a minor adjustment in training.

"Last time, I might have been a little too easy on him on his gallops," DeLima said.

So he has galloped Shooter stronger and longer between his actual drills.

He is also making a jockey switch, with Roberto Gonzalez getting the call over Dennis Carr.

"I don't think the rider had anything to do with him [losing] the last two times. I'm not changing riders because of that," DeLima said. "Dennis broke his hand and hasn't been able to work the horse. He should be back this week, but we still don't know for sure."

Gonzalez, northern California's top speed rider, will be aboard the speedy gelding for the first time and has been ridden him in his recent works, including a 1:11.80 six-furlong bullet last Friday.

Trickinthepark heads feature

Trickinthepark, a runner-up against better competition in two starts since being claimed for $16,000, returns to the $16,000 level in Friday's feature for 3-year-old at six furlongs. A stalker, he seems the one to beat on current form.

Arizona import R Champ, a wire-to-wire winner in his debut Feb. 15 at Turf Paradise, may be the one to catch. He was also entered in a tough allowance sprint Thursday but will probably opt to run here.