01/03/2005 1:00AM

Two older maidens are actually ones to beat


ALBANY, Calif. - There once was a time 5-year-old maidens were banished from California.

That, of course, is ancient history. The horse population in California these days is such that 5-year-old maidens are welcomed and even recruited.

Wednesday's most interesting race at Golden Gate Fields is a six-furlong sprint that includes a pair of 5-year-old maidens. While most 5-year-old maidens languish in the bargain-basement $8,000 maiden-claiming region, these two are the ones to beat in a straight maiden affair.

What may be equally remarkable is that both are still full horses.

Jones Tale and Kurzon were cut out to be nice runners. Jones Tale sold for $280,000 at the Barretts 2-year-olds-in-training sale in March 2002. Kurzon was a $130,000 yearling purchase.

was second in his debut as a 2-year-old, losing by 1 1/2 lengths to Only the Best. He was gone nearly a year before returning as a 3-year-old and running in a pair of races nearly three months apart. Jones Tale was then gone for nearly three more months before returning for four races as a 4-year-old.

He returns to the races Wednesday after an eight-month layoff, and has a record of four seconds and two thirds in seven starts.

"He seems to have come back good," said trainer Chuck Jenda, who got the horse last fall.

Jones Tale has good early speed and drew the outside post in the field of six. With the speed, the post, and a series of strong works, the last two at six furlongs, he is the one to beat.

"You just try to prepare like a horse coming back from a layoff," Jenda said. "Even though he's a maiden, he's run before, so you don't have to do the same things you do with horses that haven't raced. You can concentrate on getting him in condition. You don't have to school him with other horses so that he can learn to run inside them, between them, and behind them. You don't have to teach him how to break from the gate. You get him in shape, then take him to the gate to break from it."

Trainer Art Sherman has to start from scratch with Kurzon, who will be making his debut.

"He's been here four months," said Sherman, who said he doesn't know all of Kurzon's earlier ailments.

Sherman said he has been surprised by the patience of Kurzon's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss, but added that the Mosses have taken time with horses before and seen it pay off.

has worked steadily since mid-October, missing only one work during that time.

"The main thing is to get a good foundation into them," Sherman said. "Usually after they've been turned out, they come back more mature than at 2 or 3. Their legs get a lot stronger. I've just tried to give him a lot of foundation work, keep him happy, and get some air into him. I think he'll be pretty good on turf."

The rest of the field includes a Brazilian-bred 4-year-old, Jardineiro, who is making his debut; comebacking Record Smashed; General Bob, who has been running for a tag down south; and Wellington Harbor, who could be the toughest competition since he makes his third start off a layoff.

Before dismissing Jones Tale and Kurzon because they are 5-year-olds and still maidens, consider a 5-year-old maiden winner from last year. Adreamisborn finally won his maiden last February at age 5 and became a graded-stakes winner. He also ran second as the favorite in the Lafayette Handicap on New Year's Day.

Baze fined for whip misuse

Jockey Russell Baze was fined $800 for misuse of his whip on Wild Child in the second race Dec. 17 and Kimi Anne in the second race Dec. 19. Both runners suffered cuts that were reported after the horses arrived in the receiving barn following their races.

New wagering machine a hit

Golden Gate Fields officials have been happy with the reception to the new interactive wagering machines, called Horse Wizards, that are available at Magna tracks across the country.

Set in a special area in the clubhouse, the Horse Wizards are meant for those unfamiliar with racing. The machines show and take betting on live Thoroughbred and harness races from tracks around the country, on a unit that looks like a slot machine. Wagers on the machines are limited to show and across-the-board, and payouts are made at track odds.

The downside is the races are often at tracks for which past performances are not available. But the machines offer a variety of tips, from favorites to longshots, and light up like slot machines when the player selects a winner.

* Proud Patrolman, winner of a $4,000 claimer Wednesday, was not just the favorite of the betting public. He also had eight claim slips dropped for him, with Armando Lage winning the shake.

* Sunday's pick six resulted in a $216,239.80 payout to one winner. The closing race on the card, won by 28-1 Vermont Riot, produced a $75,596.70 superfecta payout to one winner.