07/03/2002 12:00AM

Taraval gets high praise from rider Schvaneveldt


PLEASANTON, Calif. - Jockey Chad Schvaneveldt wouldn't want to jinx himself by predicting a victory in Friday's Everett Nevin Alameda County Futurity at the Alameda County Fair.

But he wouldn't give up his mount on Taraval to ride any of his nine rivals in the $50,000-added five-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

Taraval will be spotting his rivals from three to seven pounds after scoring an upset victory over heavily favored Banshee King in the Malcolm Anderson Stakes at Bay Meadows on June 16. In that race, Schvaneveldt relaxed Taraval and let him settle behind speedy Banshee King.

"On the turn, I was pecking to him to get him in the race, and I didn't think he had much chance," Schvaneveldt said. "When I hit him left-handed, he exploded. It was like I was on a fresh horse. He was gone."

That burst of speed down the lane has Schvaneveldt convinced Taraval will be tough to beat if he can repeat that effort.

"He'll do what you want him to do," Schvaneveldt said. "He's seasoned like an older horse, even when you're working him in the morning."

Taraval prepped for this with a five-furlong work in 1:00.45 at Golden Gate Fields, the third best of 44 moves at the distance.

Running in a Cal-bred race might be an advantage after beating open company, but Schvaneveldt said, "There are some pretty tough Cal-breds."

He pointed to Standard Setter, the runner-up in the Malcolm Anderson after encountering some early problems; Luzern, whose stablemate won the Juan Gonzalez for 2-year-old fillies last weekend; Cash Creek, who beat Taraval to win his maiden, and Natural Balance a nine-length winner in a maiden claimer in his last start.

* Starter Hugh Morgan, who had been working at Pleasanton for the first week of the meeting after being hit by a mule just after the start of a race at Stockton on June 22, announced that he was retiring after 33 years of starting races on the fair circuit.

"I started for the first time at Ferndale in 1965," the 73-year-old Morgan said.

Morgan sustained three broken ribs when he was hit by the mule, but he continued to start races that day and worked the starting gate for workouts at Pleasanton the next morning.

He said he has no plans, although he does own some broodmares and will keep some ties to the racing industry.

"I think the thing that gives me the most pride is that every guy who is a starter at a major track in California worked for us at the fairs," he said.