04/05/2007 11:00PM

Barber looks ready for his best

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - The only thing Barber did wrong during his first two seasons of racing in Northern California was meet the best runners of his generation. Barber, now 4, lost to Cause to Believe, who won the California Derby and El Camino Real Derby before competing in the Kentucky Derby, and was beaten by the undefeated Frisco Star twice. He beat Smokey Stover in his final Northern California start.

Barber came back this year after a 10-month layoff and makes his third start of 2007 on Sunday at Bay Meadows in a $62,500 optional claimer at six furlongs.

Barber was third at Santa Anita in his comeback, a race won by Grade 1 winner Greg's Gold, and then turned in the only poor performance of his career, fading to ninth in a sprint down the hill on the Santa Anita turf.

"The Santa Anita track was too hard," said Steve Sherman, referring to Barber's third-place finish. Sherman trains the Northern California string for his father, Art Sherman.

The younger Sherman said he feels Barber may have bounced a little in his last race and had problems handling the turf course.

Barber comes off a 46.80-second half-mile bullet drill here.

"We got him ready at Hollywood Park to help keep him sound and his feet good," Sherman said. "He worked really well over the track here. I've never seen him work like that."

Completing the five-horse field are Colonel Courtney, a winner of 15 races who has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 4 starts this year; Blue Eyed Blond, who won his first start after 16 months on the sidelines; Cinema Star, an allowance winner last out; and Funny Flyer.

Hystericalady points to Humana

Hystericalady will be pointed to the seven-furlong Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 5 after an impressive victory over males in an $80,000 optional claimer here on Thursday.

The 4-year-old Hystericalady went head-and-head with sprint star Areyoutalkintome, put him away at the quarter pole, and pulled clear to win the one-mile race in 1:33.95, just .35 of a second off the track record set by Aristocratical in 1983. The field of five

included four multiple stakes winners.

"I'm very pleased getting a race into her," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "She'd been training well over the track and responded nicely today."