11/07/2002 12:00AM

Albany shapes up a tough one

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Greg Gilchrist is hoping that the old Beyond Brilliant will show up in Saturday's $60,000-added Albany Handicap at six furlongs. Or even the new one.

New or old, Beyond Brilliant will have to be at his best in what promises to perhaps the deepest sprint stakes in northern California this year.

The talent level may be a notch below last May's Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint - won by Mellow Fellow with Grade 2 winner Explicit and Grade 1 winner Swept Overboard in his wake - but most members in the field of 10 would be competitive with those sprinters.

Metatron is the only non-stakes winner in the field, but he was never worse than third in four graded stakes as a 2-year-old, competing against Came Home, Officer and Siphonic. He may end up favored in his first stakes start as a 3-year-old, as he comes off a strong allowance victory.

Profound Secret has won three of his last four starts, all in stakes races. In the other start, he ran second. His powerful closing kick and sharp form will earn him support as well.

Radar Contact won this race in the slop last year, and Imadrifter won the New Year's Day Lafayette Handicap in the slop here.

The 4-year-old Beyond Brilliant won his first three starts as a 2-year-old and finished the year 4 for 5.

After finishing second in the Sutter Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in his 3-year-old debut, Beyond Brilliant won the San Pedro at Santa Anita and Atherton at Bay Meadows. He then ran second as the 6-5 favorite to eventual Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Squirtle Squirt in an allowance race at Hollywood Park before an East Coast campaign. He wound up his 3-year-old year with seven wins in 13 starts and $319,290 in earnings.

As a 4-year-old, Beyond Brilliant's form deteriorated so badly that Gilchrist and owner Harry Aleo decided to geld him after a last-place finish in the Ernest Finley Handicap at Santa Rosa on July 27.

"He's just more focused since we did it," Gilchrist said. "The strange thing is when training him as a 2- and 3-year-old, he was always very focused in training and races.

"We gave him a couple months off at the farm, and when he came back, he never focused. If we hadn't gelded him, he would never have beaten another horse."

In his first start as a gelding, Beyond Brilliant won the Caballos Del Sol Handicap at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

"We tried to find a place where he'd be even-money so if he did not win, we'd know gelding had not helped the situation," Gilchrist said. "That's why we picked out the race at Phoenix."

Beyond Brilliant has been training better, has lost weight, and has Gilchrist feeling confident.

"I'm just as happy as I was when he was running really well," Gilchrist said. "Now we have to find out if he has enough ability to beat the kind of horses he will have to run against."

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