05/08/2005 11:00PM

Short meet long on stakes races

Lost in the Fog, undefeated, may not have many rivals in the Golden Bear.

ALBANY, Calif. - Golden Gate Fields opens a 29-day meeting Wednesday that is heavy with stakes racing. Eleven stakes worth a total of $965,000 will be offered, including six with a purse of at least $100,000.

Golden Gate Fields offered only 10 stakes at its 59-day November-January meet, and only two had six-figure purses. Two stakes were canceled. The total value of the stakes for the fall-winter meet was $730,225.

"This is the way we want to do things, and the way Magna wants to do things," said the track's racing secretary, Sean Greely, referring to Magna Entertainment, owner of Golden Gate. "We want to bring back quality to northern California."

The meet gets off to a big start, with a pair of 3-year-old stakes scheduled on the opening weekend.

The undefeated Lost in the Fog will run in Saturday's $150,000 Golden Bear Breeders' Cup Stakes. His presence seems to have scared away most contenders, although Olympic Miler will run. Multiple stakes winner Wind Water and Abuse of Power are also expected to run against Lost in the Fog.

Sunday's $100,000 Alcatraz Breeders' Cup Stakes gives 3-year-olds a chance to go one mile on the turf.

The stakes schedule also includes the $100,000 Grade 3 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf May 21 and the Grade 3 $100,000 Berkeley Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track June 11.

Greely hopes the short meet will generate full fields. He says both the main track and turf course are in good shape despite the wet winter.

"We'll get a lot of use out of the turf, but we don't want to overdo it," he said.

There will be 1,250 horses stabled on the grounds, with more at Bay Meadows and Pleasanton. That's plenty of horses - as long as they run. Greely said that trainers, under pressure from owners to show a high percentage of winners, are careful where they enter their horses. The result can be a shortage of horses entered.

"I don't think the horse population is as big a problem as many do," Greely said. "It's more a mentality.

"The game has become a business rather than a sport. We show so many percentages, often times trainers are penalized when they're not winning. When you win 30 percent, you run where you want, not to help fill races. In the old days, people wanted to knock the big horse off."

Greely is implementing one change that he hopes will lead to fuller fields: drawing the fields for races 72 hours in advance rather than 48.

"It will give us an opportunity to keep the entry box open longer," he said.

Fifty-nine horses were entered for Wednesday's opening-day card, with nine, including the entry of Gods Ear and Eclipse Winner, signed up for the feature, a $62,500 optional claimer for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Gods Ear, who has won both of her starts this year, should get a great trip behind speedsters Irish Femme and Marty's Zee, both of whom seem to need the lead to win.

The meet also will see the return to northern California of announcer Michael Wrona.

At a glance: Golden Gate Fields

RACING SCHEDULE: 29 days; Wednesday through June 19; dark Mondays and Tuesdays, except May 30; dark on June 15-16

POST TIME: 1 p.m. Pacific

HIGHLIGHTS: $150,000 Golden Bear Breeders' Cup Stakes, May 14 ; $100,000 Grade 3 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap, May 21; $100,000 Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap, June 11

ADMISSIONS: Grandstand, $3; clubhouse, $4; Top of the Stretch (no children), $6; turf club weekdays, $10; turf club weekend, holidays, $15; clubhouse reserved seats, $3

PARKING: General, $4; valet, $7

LOCATION: 1100 Eastshore Hwy., Albany, CA.

PHONE: (510) 559-7300

INTERNET: www.goldengatefields.com