06/29/2003 11:00PM

Winning Stripes has edge in class


PLEASANTON, Calif. - If Winning Stripes returns to his northern California form of earlier this year, he will be tough to beat in the $40,000-added Pleasanton Stakes on Wednesday.

Two starts back, Winning Stripes was basically eased in the $250,000 Snow Chief at Hollywood Park after his rider put him closer to the pace than usual. He ran evenly and finished sixth in the Grade 3 Will Rogers on turf at Hollywood Park in his last start.

Earlier this year, Winning Stripes finished second to Ministers Wild Cat in the Golden State Mile and fourth in the El Camino Real Derby.

Winning Stripes is the likely favorite in the Pleasanton, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds that drew four others.

Another George has won his last three starts. Allwood comes off an impressive 7 1/2-length sprint victory. Obermeister returns to the main track after finishing third in the Ascot Handicap and in an allowance race, both on the turf. Commercant Vic, a maiden and stablemate of Obermeister, rounds out the field.

Trainer George Williams believes Another George has turned a corner since he changed the horse's equipment. Another George now wears full-cup blinkers on the right eye and nothing on the left eye.

"It's made him a different horse," Williams said. "He's raising the bar all the time."

Another George was "a little rambunctious as a younger horse," Williams added, and had the annoying habit of wanting to stop running and head for the barn in his early races at Santa Anita.

"I bought him off his looks for $20,000 at the Barretts yearling sale," Williams said. "The mare's side is a little hyper, but I knew once he settled down, he'd be a good horse."

Williams's patience has paid off.

Another George will likely join Allwood in a stalking role behind Obermeister.

Obermeister was claimed by trainer Armando Lage for $8,000 off a 10-length victory. He won a $12,500 starter allowance race for Lage before his third-place finish in the $100,000 Ascot.

"He's simple," Lage said. "Go to the front and take your best shot."

Racing secretary Greg Brent understands that a five-horse field may not generate much in handle, but he decided to run the Pleasanton, which is the fourth race on the 10-race card.

"It's the only shot these will have to run until Santa Rosa, so it seemed like I should use it," he said. "It looks like a legitimate field. Even the maiden is well bred and has a good mile work at Bay Meadows."