09/05/2006 11:00PM

'Surf' connections hard to top


ALBANY, Calif. - A Hall of Fame trainer and a record-setting jockey have turned a 2-year-old maiden race into the most intriguing race on Friday's Golden Gate Fields card.

Surf Academy will make his debut for trainer Neil Drysdale in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden test against five rivals. Victor Espinoza, who set a Del Mar record by winning seven races there Monday, will ride.

"We've just been trying to find a spot," said Drysdale. "Obviously, he'll be a little green. He might need a race."

Surf Academy is by Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy. His dam, Wave On, went 4 for 7, with all her victories coming on the turf. Wave On's half-sister Valor Lady was a multiple stakes winner on the turf.

Surf Academy is a full brother of stakes-placed Royal Wave, a two-time winner on the turf, and is a half to Waveland, who also is a turf winner.

The pedigree, Drysdale said, seem to hint Surf Academy will shine on the turf.

The presence of Espinoza, who has won 9 of 44 starts for Drysdale this year, also seems to hint that Surf Academy has some talent. Espinoza, who rode in northern California as an apprentice, has won $3.7 million on Drysdale-trained horses over his career.

Surf Academy has worked steadily since coming to the track in early June, missing perhaps only one work, in late July. He has had a variety of works, including a pair at six furlongs.

Drysdale said he knows Surf Academy has a bit of speed, too, after an uncharacteristic 34.60 three-furlong move on Aug. 19, when Drysdale said, "He wasn't supposed to go that fast."

Surf Academy is not the only debut runner in the field.

Trainer Terry Knight sends out Held Up, who is a half-brother to stakes winner Boston Park. Although his turf breeding doesn't match up to Surf Academy's, Held Up comes into the race with three strong six-furlong drills and shouldn't be bothered by the distance.

Rounding out the field are Persian Tell, a runner-up on the turf here in his last start; Just What I Wanted; Cee's for Clever; and Secret Touch.

The turf course will be used with the rail at the 20-foot position.

Turf course repairs made

Turf racing was canceled Monday after 100-1 shot Wings of Olympio broke down in the stretch and ripped up nearly three yards of the course near the rail. The rail was at its inner-most setting.

Jockey Roberto Gonzalez, who inspected the course after the spill with fellow riders Russell Baze and Tony Noguez along with Golden Gate Fields officials, said there was no way the course could have been made usable for two later races Monday.

Juvenile stakes canceled

Saturday's scheduled 2-year-old stakes, the six-furlong Alameda, was canceled when only three runners signed up to compete.

The race would have been the second start for Vicarino, who won his debut impressively at Santa Rosa for trainer Greg Gilchrist and owner Harry Aleo.

Gilchrist said he would now begin to look for races at other tracks because of the lack of opportunities in northern California.

"It's like with Smokey Stover," Gilchrist said, referring to the 3-year-old he trains for Aleo. "I couldn't get a race for him here and put a dozen works into him waiting for one."

Gilchrist's problem is exacerbated by the seeming lack of interest others have in running against his good horses.