09/04/2006 12:00AM

Spellbinder captures Berkeley


ALBANY, Calif. - Spellbinder ($4.40), winless since capturing the Grade 2 San Antonio in February set a comfortable pace and re-rallied after being passed in the lane by Sharp Writer to win the $150,000 Grade 3 at Golden Gate Fields on Monday.

The 6-to-5 favorite broke in stride and took the lead into the turn in the 1 1/16-mile race. Though closely pressed by Distorted, he was relaxed and began to open into the stretch.

While he was saving ground on the rail, Sharp Writer, who got a ground-saving trip from off the pace, was angling out for a stretch run. He seemed to put his neck in front nearing the 16th pole when Spellbinder's rider, Roberto Gonzalez, switched to a right-handed stick. Spellbinder responded and came back on, winning by a neck in 1:43.07.

"I talked with (trainer) Richard Mandella this morning," Gonzalez said. "He said to try to break good and get him running leaving the gate. He said if someone is quarter horsing to let him go and just keep him comfortable.

"I knew the speed horse (Gotaghostofachance) had scratched so I just let him go. He knew that other horse was there, but he was relaxing so good, he hardly took hold of the bit."

Russell Baze thought that Sharp Writer would win when he stuck his head in front.

"I thought I had it, but my horse had run pretty hard to get up to them. My horse didn't quit. The other horse just had a little bit left. I kept waiting for the leader to falter, but he dug in when he saw us out there. I can't fault my horse. He gave me all he had."

Gonzalez said when Sharp Writer went by him he reached to the bottom of his bag of tricks.

"I switched stick and hit him right-handed, and he gave me another gear. The only thing you can do when someone gets by you is to try something different."

The victory, worth $82,500, was Spellbinder's sixth in 23 starts and raised his career earnings to $466,057 for owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss.

Gotaghostofachance scratched when he got sick Monday morning. Keep On Punching scratched and ran in the Windy Sands at Del Mar.