12/29/2006 12:00AM

Undefeated Sierra Nights steps up


ALBANY, Calif. - Sierra Nights has yet to do a thing wrong in two starts.

She'll try to win her third straight start in Sunday's Golden Gate Fields feature, tackling seven rivals in a first-level allowance race for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko claimed Sierra Nights for $20,000 out of her Oct. 20 debut. He stretched her out to 1 1/16 miles in a starter allowance, which she won with ease.

"I liked her breeding," Dorochenko said, explaining why he put up his own $20,000 to claim the filly. "Mr. [Martin] Wygod breeds good horses, so sometimes you have to take your chance. Twenty thousand is a big chance for me."

Thus far, it's been a good investment. Dorochenko was impressed with Sierra Nights's victory when he claimed her.

"When I see how she won, that was amazing," he said. "She was a first-time starter going six furlongs from the rail on a Friday night. That is a very tough thing to do."

It was made even tougher when she was blocked at the quarter pole, but jockey Frank Alvarado waited. They were shuffled back, and the filly unleashed a strong kick when she got clear.

As he got to know Sierra Nights, Dorochenko realized the granddaughter of Alydar and Cox's Ridge "can run any distance."

He stretched her out, and she responded nicely over a sloppy track.

"The track was very bad; they were slipping like it was ice,"said Dorochenko.

The result was an even easier victory, as she rallied four wide and pulled away in the lane.

Now Dorochenko wants to find out how good Sierra Nights is.

"That's a big difference between $20,000 maiden and a starter allowance, but moving up here may be even tougher," he said.

By Benchmark out of the unraced Sierra Ridge, Sierra Nights is already her dam's most accomplished runner. Her three other foals to race won only maiden races.

Sierra Nights must contend with Crystal Event, who finished second in a stakes in her second start and comes off a photo-finish loss in a comeback race last out.

Gemstone Rush has 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds, but may be better on the turf. Home Ice figures to ensure a good pace for Sierra Nights and Crystal Event to run at.