07/05/2004 11:00PM

Sterling Cat has makings of a star


PLEASANTON, Calif. - The first week of the Alameda County Fair unveiled one potential 2-year-old star as well as two others who may make names for themselves in their juvenile seasons.

Trainer Jeff Bonde had planned to debut Sterling Cat in the Juan Gonzalez Memorial Stakes. He did that with last year's Juan Gonzalez winner, Lyin Goddess, and had previously won the stakes with another maiden.

"I do some crazy things in my hometown," he said.

Maybe not so crazy - Bonde thought he had something in Sterling Cat, and he was right.

But because so many winners entered the Juan Gonzalez field, Bonde and trainer Don Warren were forced to enter a straight maiden race for the debuts of Sterling Cat and Two to Get Ready.

Sterling Cat was made the 7-5 favorite, odds that looked like an overlay as she romped by two lengths without ever being turned loose by jockey Russell Baze. Two to Get Ready ran fifth.

"She seemed pretty nice when I got on her to work her," Baze said, referring to Sterling Cat. "She seemed to be decent, but I hadn't been on her in about three weeks."

Baze said he was impressed by the ease with which she drew away from Rocio Comargo, an early challenger.

"I tapped her in the lane just to see what she had, but I didn't really ask her," Baze said. "I'd say she acquitted herself well."

So well that her fractions and final time were faster than those of Timeintown, the wire-to-wire winner of the Juan Gonzalez two races later.

Vicente, Wind Water jump up

On Sunday, two colts making only their second starts turned a few heads.

Vicente, second in a two-furlong race in his debut, toyed with a maiden field. Two races later, Wind Water, whose career debut was a third in the Malcolm Anderson Stakes at Bay Meadows, established a track record with a 56.20-second clocking while winning the Everett Nevin Alameda County Futurity by four lengths.

Vicente may run in the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa, but the two rivals could meet in the July 28 Graduation Stakes for Cal-breds at Del Mar.

Apprentice, 19, wins first stakes

Maggie Carter, a 19-year-old apprentice, won the first stakes of her career aboard Vialyn in the $10,550 Pleasanton Arabian Distaff Stakes on Monday.

Carter galloped horses for two years and took out her jockey's license in January. She rides primarily at Los Alamitos but has had one mount at Hollywood Park, and has finished second and fifth aboard Thoroughbreds at Stockton.

"I've won eight races, four on Arabians and four on Thoroughbreds," she said after her stakes victory.

Vialyn ($13.20) was the lesser half of a Billy Lewis-trained entry behind Shippey Lane, who was 5 for 5 this year, but Vialyn got the lead early from her stablemate and pulled away.

"I thought I'd be a little off the pace, but she broke well and pulled me up there. I wasn't going to fight her," said Carter, who drove up from Southern California with her boyfriend, Baltazar Contreras, another Los Al jockey.

The pair planned to drive back immediately on Monday afternoon.

"I have to work horses in the morning," Carter said. "That's my job."

Two track records fall

Two track records were set on the blazing-fast strip at Pleasanton on Sunday and Monday. In addition to Wind Water's record Sunday, Marwood set a track record of 1:40.04 in the 1 1/16-mile Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap on Monday.

Jerry Hollendorfer, Marwood's trainer, said he was more impressed by his filly's style than her time.

"The track's way too fast," he said.

Saturday's handle near record

Saturday's $4,253,673 handle was the fourth-largest in Alameda County Fair history, and all returns aren't in yet. After figures from advance-deposit wagering are added, the record of $4,497,289 from July 1, 2001, may be surpassed.

Not counting deposit wagering, the fair is up two percent overall for the meet against six comparative days from 2003. Ontrack wagering is up eight percent, and Monday's holiday card, compared with the opening Sunday of 2003 instead of the Monday when Pleasanton was the only track running in California, was up 15 percent, with $3,877,092 in handle.

* Nine fillies and mares meet in Thursday's Alameda County Fair feature, a first-level allowance race at one mile and 70 yards. Brite Colors, third against similar in her last start, could be the one to beat despite her outside post against recent turf winners Relaxing Green, China Princess, and Tender Trap.