01/02/2003 1:00AM

Track record is a boon, but claim is a bust

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Peter Wilson's happy new year was short-lived.

On Wednesday at Golden Gate Fields he sent out Contradiction in a five-furlong $12,500 claiming race. Contradiction won by 2 1/2 lengths, setting a track record of 56.12 seconds, lowering the 56.40-second standard set by Valley Land on April 8, 1990. Contradiction was claimed from the race by Jerry Hollendorfer.

"It would have been nice if I'd kept the horse," Wilson said. "I got elated for the win but disgusted for the bloody claim."

The 48-year-old Wilson, who got his training license 1 1/2 years ago, came to the track at age 14 and learned the game during a seven-year apprenticeship. He was riding for Concorde Bloodstock Agency on the Isle of Man, when Concorde's owner decided to get out of racing in 1986. Wilson came to the United States, but had little success as a jockey here.

"I couldn't get going riding because I was taught to ride quite high," he said. "I had a style that was hard to change, and I couldn't get along. I began to gallop horses, and I worked with [trainer] Bill Mastrangelo, but I always wanted to train."

Losing Contradiction might not have hurt so badly had he not been 25 percent of Wilson's stable. Wilson claimed him for $4,000 on Oct. 12 and figures he made about $30,000 with him.

"I watched when he won at Sacramento and loved the look of him," said Wilson. "I couldn't believe when [trainer Chuck Peery] put him in for $4,000. He has extra huge pasterns and tiny feet. I thought he'd do nicely at 4 1/2 furlongs on the grass."

Contradiction faded badly in his first start for Wilson, at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. He then ran third before winning for a $6,250 claiming tag, and then ran second for $16,000.

"I try to look for value," Wilson said of his claiming philosophy. "The purses are so good at the bottom, I think you can see something running cheap and move them up."

Stakes repeat

For the second year in a row on New Year's Day, I'madrifter scored a wire-to-wire victory in the Lafayette Handicap.

"I think we had the luxury of him not being the horse to beat," trainer Steve Specht said. "I think people figured Jimmy Z" - the fourth-place finisher - "would be the horse to beat and were more concerned with him."

I'madrifter and Jimmy Z were the only runners in the field who ran without mud caulks.