12/12/2005 1:00AM

Wilko, Seattles Best Joe have Malibu date

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ALBANY, Calif. - The second- and third-place finishers in Saturday's Larkspur Stakes at Golden Gate Fields will likely meet again in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Seattles Best Joe and Wilko, who finished in a three-way photo behind Loyalton, both came out of the six-furlong race in good shape and now will point to the Malibu, a seven-furlong race that starts Santa Anita's Strub Series.

The Malibu was always the goal for Wilko. His trainer, Craig Dollase, was not entirely disappointed with his colt's flying third-place finish in the Larkspur - although he conceded, "We would have liked to have won."

Wilko finished with a strong run and galloped out well.

The race had a surprisingly slow early pace, with splits of 22.51 and 22.62 seconds for the first two quarter-miles. Loyalton ran the final quarter in 23.45 and final eighth in 11.92.

Seattles Best Joe closed in 23.05 and 11.52 seconds after having to pause for the briefest of instances to steer clear into the lane. Wilko, who rallied in the clear four wide, came home in 22.75 and 11.42.

"They didn't run that fast at first but really flew home," said Dollase, noting that Corey Nakatani, Wilko's rider, "didn't beat him up coming home, but he really surged at the wire."

Said Nakatani: "They came home strong, and he was making up ground. I think he got what he needed out of this race. It should have him set for the Malibu."

Seattles Best Joe's trainer, Howard Belvoir, said before the Larkspur that his owners were talking about the Malibu. He said Sunday that his star came out of the race fine and would be nominated for the Malibu.

Seattles Best Joe won the Sunny Slope at Santa Anita last year as a 2-year-old, and Belvoir said he seemed to like the track.

Belvoir was a bit more disappointed by the defeat than Dollase but was nonetheless pleased with the effort.

"Down the backstretch, I thought we were a little close [to the front], but when I saw the fractions, I figured we were in the right spot," he said. "He had to find room at the top of the stretch, which may have cost him a stride, and he was giving weight to the other two."

Kevin Krigger, who picked up the mount after Dennis Carr opted to ride Stellar Magic, was pleased by the effort in his first ride on Seattles Best Joe since last summer at Emerald Downs.

"My horse did everything he could," Krigger said. "He ran game. To hold off Wilko all the way down the stretch says a lot about him."

While Wilko, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner last year, is looking to stretch out after the Malibu, Belvoir will keep Seattles Best Joe at sprint distances.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won seven of the 11 stakes at Golden Gate Fields at this short meet, said Loyalton came out of the race fine. Having run two races since Nov. 27 after an 11-month layoff after having bone chips removed from a rear ankle, Loyalton will not be pointed to the Malibu.

Stellar Magic, the other comebacker in the race, was three wide on the pace and held on for five furlongs before giving way.

He was quite tired after the race and drank a lot of water, but he also gobbled down his dinner and came out of the race in good shape, which offset the initial disappointment of his trainer, Brian Pitnick. Stellar Magic had missed nine months after knee and ankle surgery.

Pitnick will lobby the Bay Meadows racing secretary, Tom Doutrich, to write a conditioned allowance sprint in hopes of sprinting Stellar Magic at least one more time before trying to stretch him out. Ultimately, he should have a wide range of options, including turf.

No stakes in six-day closing week

No stakes are scheduled as Golden Gate Fields closes out its meeting with a six-day week. The meeting ends next Monday, with Bay Meadows opening the following Monday after a weeklong Christmas break.

With long-range weather forecasts predicting dry weather, Golden Gate racing secretary, Sean Greely, should be able to make good use of the turf course during the final week.

* Jockey Modesto Linares, who was taken down to fifth place from third aboard Cool Red last Wednesday, will serve a three-day suspension Thursday through Saturday for causing interference in the stretch.

* Trainer John Martin sent out No Night and Califo in a $6,250 turf claimer Saturday. They were the second and third choices in the field but were the final two finishers. Both were claimed: No Night, who finished seventh, by Bill Delia, and Califo, who was eighth, by Art Sherman.