10/16/2003 12:00AM

'Angel' seeks repeat


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Angel Gift and Lost at Sea, a pair of talented runners seeking their first victories of 2003, are the ones to beat in a field of six older fillies and mares in Saturday's $60,000-added Golden Poppy Handicap.

Angel Gift is the defending champion in the 1 1/16-mile race. She has two third-place finishes in four starts this year.

Lost at Sea, who developed into a Grade 1 participant last year, has a pair of seconds in three starts this year.

Lost at Sea, who will make her first start since finishing third in the Santa Clara Handicap here on May 3, seems the likely pacesetter off her fractions in her past two starts, although she has never run on the lead before.

"I haven't seen the past performances of the other runners, so I can't comment on strategy for the race," said Jerry Hollendorfer, Lost at Sea's trainer.

Hollendorfer is more concerned about the condition of the 4-year-old filly than the tactics. "I just want to get her to the races," he said.

Lost at Sea ran three well-spaced races earlier this year, and her Beyers were improving when Hollendorfer gave her the summer off.

"I just wasn't happy with the way she was training," said Hollendorfer.

She has had a consistent work pattern, with three six-furlong works, a seven-furlong drill, and a pair of mile works in the past month.

Angel Gift, a stalker who should be very close early, has not won since last year's Golden Poppy, where she beat Lindsay Jean by three lengths. Prior to that, she had been chasing Azeri.

After her Golden Poppy win, Angel Gift ran third in two stakes before trainer Patrick Gallagher gave her a six-month break.

"She'd been in training for a couple years, so I gave her some time off," Gallagher said of Angel Gift's layoff. "It was just a freshener."

In her July 5 comeback, Angel Gift faded to fifth after being second in the lane in the Grade 3 Royal Heroine on the turf. She was last behind Azeri and Got Koko in the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch in her second start back, and most recently she was an even third in the Piedra Foundation Handicap on Sept. 4 at Del Mar.

Angel Gift, too, has worked steadily up to this race, with her clocked works coming on the turf.

"There's no particular reason," Gallagher said of the turf works. "Last year when she ran on dirt, she worked on turf. We didn't change anything. She's been doing well."

Rhiana, who breaks from the rail, beat Angel Gift in a stakes.