09/26/2005 11:00PM

Baffert pair face tough challengers

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Both Apalachee Tiger and Follow the Rainbow scored consecutive victories at Del Mar, and they will try to extend their streaks in Thursday's featured $49,000 allowance race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

As far as Bob Baffert is concerned, either can win, since he trains both. But the Baffert duo - who race as separate betting interests because of different ownership - face formidable challenges from Steal Your Thunder, who is dropping out of stakes races at Del Mar, and Aragorn, a European newcomer.

The one-mile grass race drew eight runners and will go as the seventh race on an eight-race card.

took five starts to defeat maidens sprinting, but then handled both stretching out and switching to turf to defeat a first-level allowance field on Aug. 27. That was his third race in four weeks.

"I wasn't going to run in this race because he bruised a foot, but he worked well on the turf, and they put this race on for a day later," Baffert said Tuesday at Santa Anita.

Although Apalachee Tiger made his first five starts on dirt, Baffert was eager to try him on grass.

"His feet are huge," Baffert said. "He's got real big, flat feet."

leaped straight from a victory against maidens into stakes company and made off with the El Cajon on Sept. 3. Because he has just those two victories to his credit, he is still eligible to this second-level allowance condition despite being a stakes winner. Thursday's race will be his first on turf.

"There's no other place to run," Baffert said. "And he worked good on the turf at Del Mar, so we'll try it. The bottom of his pedigree says grass." Follow the Rainbow is out of the Soviet Star mare Star of the River.

late kick was compromised on the Del Mar turf, where speed tended to carry. He was fifth in a division of the Oceanside Stakes against Becrux, then was fifth in the La Jolla Handicap to Willow O Wisp, who subsequently captured the Del Mar Derby.

Aragorn is making his United States debut for trainer Neil Drysdale. Aragorn raced once in Ireland and four times in Great Britain, most recently on July 9. He is eligible to a first-level allowance condition, but his European form is good enough to be competitive against this group.