01/18/2005 1:00AM

Two sprinters try to run back to big Beyers


ALBANY, Calif. - Three-year-old sprinters top a strong card Thursday at Golden Gate Fields. California Choice and Stellar Magic, who earned Beyer Figures of 91 and 90, respectively, in their debuts, head the field of six in the feature, a $30,000 allowance at six furlongs.

The card also includes a $50,000 optional claiming sprint and a pair of $25,000 claiming races.

Inevitably, local 3-year-old sprinters will be held in comparison to Lost in the Fog, who won his debut here and then recorded a 109 Beyer Figure - the highest 2-year-old Beyer of 2004 - in winning a minor stakes race at Turf Paradise.

California Choice, purchased privately by trainer Jeff Bonde last summer, ran faster fractions in his Dec. 12 debut than Lost in the Fog did in his.

"I'm not here to compare him to Lost in the Fog in any way," Bonde said. "One or two races don't make a career. I hope Lost in the Fog continues to run well and that mine does, too."

won his debut by six lengths without ever really being asked by jockey Roberto Gonzalez. He looms the one to catch Thursday, although there is other speed in the race.

"He always worked very precocious," said Bonde, who hoped to debut the colt at Oak Tree but was set back when the colt encountered a minor leg problem.

"He was very speed-crazy early, but Gonzo [Gonzalez] has worked with him and got him relaxing well," Bonde said. "He always finishes [his works] well. He should get two turns."

As high as Bonde's hopes are for California Choice, they only match those of trainer Brian Pitnick for Stellar Magic. After winning his debut in a race that has produced three other winners, Stellar Magic was involved in a pressured pace battle before fading in the seven-furlong California Breeders' Championship.

"We were very disappointed," Pitnick said of the seventh-place finish at Santa Anita. "He was traveling so easy we couldn't figure it out."

cramped up badly in the receiving barn after the race, and Pitnick deduced that his star had a palate problem that he has since remedied, at least in the morning, with an equipment change.

Pitnick isn't concerned that California Choice appears quicker than his gelding.

"I'd like to sit a couple lengths off the lead," he said. "I like being drawn outside [California Choice]."

* Stormica ($5.20), trained by Gary Mandella, got a perfect trip from 17-year-old jockey Michael Baze and scored an easy victory in the $53,500 Richmond Handicap on Monday. Stormica, the favorite, pulled her way into contention on the turn and was unchallenged in the lane, winning the six-furlong race by four lengths over Vaca City Flyer in 1:09.43.