03/13/2007 11:00PM

Allowance gets Grade 1 winner

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ARCADIA, Calif. - When Price Tag came to the United States last fall, she had won just twice, with a third win, in the Group 1 French 1000 Guineas, having been taken away via disqualification. She got that elusive Grade 1 victory in her first start in this country, in the Matriarch Stakes last fall at Hollywood Park. But with only three wins to her credit, she was eligible for a third-level allowance race on Friday at Santa Anita, and that is where she turned up for her 2007 debut for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Price Tag will be an overwhelming favorite in a one-mile grass race that drew five others. There are only two other graded or group stakes winners in the field, Baby Melody and Dona Amelia, who both won those races in South America. It goes as the second race on an eight-race card.

"I just wanted to get a race in her before the spring," Frankel said Wednesday morning. "We gave her a break after the Matriarch because there wasn't anything to run in. And you can't have them going all year long."

Friday's race will be the first start for Price Tag since the Nov. 26 Matriarch, which Price Tag won by a half-length after rallying from 12th in the final quarter-mile. Frankel said he might take Price Tag to Keeneland for her next start, but his main goal in upcoming months is the Grade 2, $1 million CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park on July 6. That race is run at the same distance and course as the Matriarch.

"The way she ran in the Matriarch, I think she'll go farther than a mile," Frankel said. "But races set up differently going a mile and an eighth."

Frankel said he is hoping Price Tag will be in the running for the female turf championship at year's end.

"She acts like a nice filly," he said. "It all depends on their desire to win. With Intercontinental," Frankel said, referring to the female turf champ of 2005, "you couldn't tell in the morning. I think she can do it, just going on her race record."

Baffert's Derby hopes slim

Trainer Bob Baffert usually is armed with several Kentucky Derby prospects by this time each year, but it has been slim pickings so far in 2007.

"The only Derby I'm going to right now is the Derby restaurant," he said Wednesday morning at Santa Anita.

Baffert is hoping to get back in the hunt on Saturday, when his colt Air Commander is scheduled to take on likely favorite Cobalt Blue in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Felipe Stakes.

"The raw talent is there," Baffert said. "We just keep waiting for him to put it all together. I think he's a good horse. He'll tell us a lot this week."

Air Commander won a first-level allowance race here on March 4, his second straight win. He's on an accelerated learning curve. The San Felipe will be his fourth start of the meet.

In addition to Air Commander and Cobalt Blue, the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe is also expected to include Dee Rain, Grapelli, and Level Red. Grapelli will be adding blinkers, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Small fields for weekend stakes

The San Felipe is expected to have just five runners, and the other stakes this weekend aren't expected to have much depth, either.

The $125,000 Irish O'Brien Stakes, a tradition on St. Patrick's Day, is expected to have only four or five California-bred females going 6 1/2 furlongs on turf on Saturday, including River's Prayer, who won the California Cup Distaff Handicap on the hillside turf course in October. Bettersweetmoment, Gn. Group Meeting, and La Tormenta are also expected.

Bedlam Bertie, who won the Sensational Star Handicap for Cal-breds on the hillside course on Feb. 18, will try to stretch out to a mile on turf in the $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap for statebreds on Sunday. Also expected are El Don, Epic Power, Hockey the General, Super Strut, and possibly Scottsbluff, who worked six furlongs in 1:15.20 on Wednesday morning at Hollywood Park.

* Idiot Proof, second in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27, will be heavily favored in a first-level allowance for 3-year-old California-bred sprinters in Friday's third race. Idiot Proof was a runaway winner of his debut in June at Hollywood Park, then was off until the Sunshine Millions.

* Juliya Space, a $1.5 million yearling buy, makes her debut for Frankel in Friday's fourth race going 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. Juliya Space, 3, is by Storm Cat and is out of the Affirmed mare La Affirmed, making her a full sister to graded stakes winner Caress.

* Bordonaro, third last time out in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, worked a half-mile in 51.20 seconds on Wednesday morning at Santa Anita for trainer Bill Spawr. Among the races under consideration for his next start are the Potrero Grande Handicap here on April 7, or the April 13 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn Park, which Bordonaro won last year.

* Latent Heat, who won the Malibu Stakes and San Carlos Handicap this meet, breezed a half-mile in 49.40 seconds on Wednesday morning at Hollywood Park for Frankel. Latent Heat is expected to make his next start in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 7.