07/30/2003 11:00PM

Alamedan's top two set for rematch

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Surprise Halo and World Light, who finished one-two in the Alamedan Handicap on July 6 at Pleasanton, will square off again in Saturday's $100,000 Joseph T. Grace Handicap at Santa Rosa.

Surprise Halo, trained by Dennis Ward, and World Light, under the care of Greg Gilchrist, figure to be tough in the 1 1/16-mile race, and both trainers believe their eight rivals will be facing even better horses than ran in Pleasanton.

That race was the first in nearly eight months for World Light.

"Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe the horse will be better suited to winning this time," Gilchrist said.

"If this race had come up in two weeks or so, I wouldn't run him. When you've been off for eight months and run that hard the first time, you need to give them more time. He'd worked hard up to that race, but I knew that would not be his best race of the year."

It was Surprise Halo's second start after a brief freshening to mend a quarter crack, and also his first start on dirt in more than one year.

"He can run under just about any condition you ask him," Ward said. "He wasn't ready for that last stakes at Bay Meadows," the June 15 Foster City Handicap. "He ran up like he would win, but he tired."

Although 21 of his 30 starts and nine of his 12 wins have come on turf, Surprise Halo had switched surfaces well before.

"I knew he could go from turf to dirt," Ward said. "As a 3-year-old, he broke his maiden on the dirt, and he won at Pleasanton after a turf race. His work program is the same no matter what he runs on. He's always worked on dirt. He's never been on the turf other than his races."

Surprise Halo can unleash a strong closing kick and is versatile enough that he set the pace in both the Tanforan Handicap and Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap earlier this year.

World Light sat close to pacesetter Matter of Honour in the Alamedan and took the lead into the lane.

Gilchrist hopes that Jerry Hollendorfer trainees Cappuchino and Metatron or Southern California invader Trompolino show enough speed to let World Light sit back a bit in the Grace.

"I think he's more a horse who wants to stalk and not go right to the lead," Gilchrist said.

There's a chance that history could repeat itself on Saturday: Last year, Hoovergetthekeys and Takin It Deep ran one-two in both the Alamedan and the Grace, with Alamedan runner-up Takin It Deep winning the Grace.