10/23/2006 11:00PM

Babcock Lake capable if willing

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Babcock Lake, a talented 2-year-old colt, has trainer Jeff Bonde scratching his head.

In Thursday's Bay Meadows feature, Babcock Lake makes his first start since a disappointing effort in the $131,000 Barretts Juvenile on Sept. 17. He has four rivals in Thursday's six-furlong allowance race, including recent maiden winners Are You Positive, who graduated by seven lengths, and Candy's Bro, the runner-up to Babcock Lake in his debut.

Babcock Lake, a $100,000 purchase at Barretts in May, dueled for the lead before fading at Del Mar in his debut. He led wire to wire in graduating at Golden Gate Fields in his second start, while never being seriously asked.

Eleven days later, he sat just off an honest pace at Fairplex and faded after a half-mile.

"He just ran a flat race," said Bonde. "He's kind of wilted in a couple of his starts. I guess we ran him back too quickly in that stakes race."

Bonde has given Babcock Lake five weeks since that race. He went four weeks between starts when he won his maiden.

Babcock Lake has worked three times, with a bullet half-mile and easy four- and five-furlong maintenance moves since his last start.

"We've got a proper span between races this time," Bonde said. "I think he'll run well. He's shown glimmers he can be a good horse."

Are You Positive, like Babcock Lake, faded at Del Mar in his debut. He returned to score an impressive maiden victory, leading wire to wire and pulling away to score by seven lengths at Golden Gate Fields in his next start.

Are You Positive had things his own way in his maiden victory, but he might not have the lead here.

Candy's Bro set sizzling fractions in his maiden win, going 20.96 seconds for a quarter-mile and 44.15 for a half. That's faster than Are You Positive has run, and Candy's Bro has the advantage of drawing post 5, just outside Are You Positive. Babcock Lake's ability to run a sub-45-second opening half ensures there will be plenty of pace in the race.

Love That Gin can stalk the pace. He was beaten 12 lengths by Vicarino in that race, and Vicarino broke a track record in his next start.