12/04/2003 12:00AM

Two look dominant in Oakland


ALBANY, Calif. - Saturday's $60,000-added Oakland Handicap at Golden Gate Fields could boil down to a virtual match race in the stretch between More Crafty and My Captain.

More Crafty and My Captain ran one-two in the Albany Handicap on Golden Gate's opening weekend and will hook up again in the six-furlong Oakland against five rivals, including Grade 2-winning Boston Common, who was seventh in the Grade 1 De Francis Dash on Nov. 15 at Laurel.

More Crafty, who wore down My Captain to win the Albany by three-quarters of a length in 1:08.55, is undefeated in two starts since undergoing minor surgery for a breathing problem.

More Crafty, who has 4 wins and 4 seconds in 13 lifetime starts, has never been better.

Trainer Bill Morey Jr. said he had been impressed by More Crafty's 57.80-second bullet workout on Nov. 26: "The track was playing good that day, but he went really fast, maybe a little faster than we wanted, but he came back good."

More Crafty snapped My Captain's streak of three straight stakes victories in the Albany and gets a four-pound weight break Saturday after a six-pound advantage in the Albany.

Just as More Crafty is at his peak, so, too, is My Captain, who has 6 wins, 3 seconds, and 5 thirds in 21 starts. Part of his success is attributable to the healing of quarter cracks, which plagued him early in his career.

Although he was pleased with his 4-year-old gelding's effort in the Albany, My Captain's trainer, Art Sherman, thought the colt could have won with a better ride. He went head and head with comebacking 3-year-old Souvenir's Lad through a hot 43.44-second half-mile and couldn't hold off More Crafty.

My Captain has more speed than More Crafty, and Sherman believes he can control the pace of the race, either by taking the lead himself or applying pressure on the leader. But he didn't feel jockey Francisco Duran needed to be head and head with those sizzling fractions.

"I should have been more patient," Duran said. "You want to be confident, but not so confident. I was so confident in my horse and felt so good sitting off that other one, but I just have to be more aware of what's going on."

Duran could face a similar situation Saturday, sitting just off a speedy 3-year-old comebacker. Onebadshark, coming back from a cracked shin, has a series of strong works for his first race since the March 8 El Camino Real Derby. Boston Common has also shown early speed.