02/13/2002 12:00AM

Strike for Glory grew up

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Bill Anton says the recent success of Strike for Glory is easy to explain.

"Our little boy has grown up," he said of the 4-year-old colt that will face five rivals in Friday's feature at Golden Gate Fields.

Strike for Glory has won three of seven starts since joining Anton's barn in July.

The first victory was significant for Anton, owner Benny Lafever, and jockey Ken Tohill, all of whom live in Pleasanton. The race was at the California State Fair and was named for long-time racing official Charlie Palmer, a former Pleasanton resident they all knew.

"I think we all wanted to win the race more because it was named for Charlie than for the money," Anton said.

When Anton got Strike for Glory, he recognized the colt had talent.

"This colt was like a big, dumb kid," Anton said. "He had raw ability, but as he raced more he began to understand what racing was all about.

"This is the case of a horse that makes his trainer and owner look like geniuses."

Anton praised groom Canelario Villimar's work with the colt.

"All horses need work. They get their dings and bangs because this is a tough sport," Anton said. "This horse always looks good."

With the exception of an eighth-place finish in a turf race, Strike for Glory has picked up a check in every race for Anton.

"That was my fault," Anton said. "I asked too much, too soon."

He won twice in $12,500 starter allowance company.

"We weren't running there to steal money, although we liked picking up the checks," Anton said. "Mostly, we did it because he is immature, not in the body but in the mind."

In the second of those starts, Anton could sense in the paddock that the colt had begun to figure things out.

"I had told Benny that once he [Strike for Glory] got smart, we were going to have more than we know," said Anton.

After Strike for Glory's second starter allowance victory, Anton put him in a $40,000 optional claimer, the same type of race he's slated for on Friday. He ran second behind runaway winner Tony's Royalty. He then was a troubled fourth in the Monclair Handicap, steadying at the quarter pole and again in the stretch.

Brodrick, Iclinator, Blue Tejano, Roaring Red, and Sempai round out Friday's field.

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