04/02/2006 12:00AM

Smokey Stover strides away in Stinson Beach

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Vassar Photography
Smokey Stover, ridden by Russell Baze, extends his lead on his way to victory in the Stinson Beach Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

ALBANY, Calif. - Odds-on Smokey Stover ($2.80) had no trouble scoring the first stakes victory of his career, winning the $41,650 Stinson Beach Stakes by seven lengths at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

The talented 3-year-old gelding had not broken well in his first two starts but did on Sunday. He let Midwesterner go to the front, shifted outside him after the half-mile pole and went on to win as he wished in 1:09.33 for six furlongs in the overnight stakes for 3-year-olds. Midwesterner held off Spunky Harry by a head for second.

"Even though he broke good, he was a little clumsy that first jump, but then he gathered himself," winning jockey Russell Baze said. "I took him around Midwesterner, and he just cruised up to him. I could have won by 10 more lengths if I'd wanted to."

Winning trainer Greg Gilchrist was please with the effort and added, "He'll be a lot better around two turns."

Gilchrist and owner Harry Aleo considered running in next Saturday's $100,000 Lost Code at Hawthorne before deciding to stay at home.

"I think running here was the best thing for this horse. It was another step forward," Gilchrist said.

Smokey Stover earned $22,450 for his first stakes win and now has earned $45,150 with two victories and a second in three starts.