08/02/2002 11:00PM

Takin It Deep wins Grace

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Trainer Gil Matos got what may have been the sweetest win of his career when Takin It Deep won the $100,990 Joseph T. Grace Handicap on Saturday at the Sonoma County Fair.

Takin It Deep, the 2001 California Derby winner, beat Hoovergetthekeys by 1_ (three-quarters) lengths in the 1 1/16-mile race. The winning time was 1:42.80.

"This was a sweet win for us," said Matos, who saw Takin It Deep lose by a nose to Hoovergetthekeys in the Alamedan Handicap on July 7 at Pleasanton. "That's only fair. He beat me, now I beat him.

"I've been pointing to this race for some time. He really liked this track last year. He was a young 3-year-old last year. He was a May foal. He's just really coming around now."

On Friday, Blue Slew's Shoes, another Matos trainee, lost by a nose to Federal Highway in the James F. Lyttle Handicap at the fair.

Takin It Deep was last early behind dueling leaders San Nicolas and Mistakenly Special. He got a ground-saving trip down the backstretch.

"The race set up like it looked on paper," winning jockey Joey Castro said. "I saw Hoovergetthekeys was getting a good trip so I tucked in behind him and followed him around the three-eighths pole. When he didn't pull away, I knew I had a good chance."

Taking It Deep has won six of 22 starts with earnings of $313,695.

Matos said the 4-year-old colt will run as a 5-year-old next year.