01/11/2003 12:00AM

Standard Setter captures Golden Gate Derby

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ALBANY, Calif. - Standard Setter ($38.60) held off the challenge of favored Ozzie Cat and scored a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 $100,000 Golden Gate Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Standard Setter, who underwent knee surgery to remove a "minute chip" from his left knee after finishing second in the Everett Nevin-Alameda County Futurity on July 5 at Pleasanton, was making his first start around two turns as he won the 1 1/16-mile by a neck in 1:43.76 over a muddy track.

Pine For Java, who was last early after bumping the gate, made a belated rally for third, one length behind Ozzie Cat.

Winning jockey Roberto Gonzalez said that Alfredo Miranda aboard Quietly Quick "wanted to make me run early. He was smooching to his horse, and it made me go a lot faster than I wanted to go early."

Standard Setter ran a 22.33 opening quarter to open a 2_-(two one-half) length lead after the opening quarter. Gonzalez began to slow the pace down after that, while maintaining an easy lead.

After giving Standard Setter a breather down the backstretch, Gonzalez was also able to give him another breather while on the second turn.

While Jose Valdivia Jr. was going to the whip aboard Ozzie Cat as the field of 10 turned into the stretch, Gonzalez continued to hand ride Standard Setter before finally going to the whip inside the eighth pole.

Gonzalez said that Ozzie Cat did get in front of him.

"He had me until the final 50 yards when my horse dug in and rallied," Gonzalez said.

Valdivia loomed up on the second turn and said, "My only concern was making the lead too soon because this horse will stop when he gets to the front.

"(Standard Setter) looked like he was running off early, so I knew he was going to come back to us. Well, he fooled me. He just kept on going and ran a hell of a race. My horse kind of hung a little bit, but you can't take anything away from the winner."

Winning trainer Jeff Bonde had given Standard Setter seven-furlong and four-furlong works after his comeback race in a six-furlong starter allowance on Dec. 20.

"When I brought him back the other day, he ran off, and that cost him," Bonde said. "I knew I had to get him ready for this race because my boss (owner Phil Lebherz) told me five months ago to have him in this race."

Lebherz and partner Richard Meisner owned Epic Honor, the 1999 Golden Gate Derby winner.

Standard Setter earned $55,000 and improved his career earnings to $95,110 with two victories in seven starts.