01/30/2009 1:00AM

Baze benefits Will O Way

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Saturday will be an important day for Will O Way and jockey Russell Baze.

Will O Way will be heavily favored against six 3-year-old filly rivals in the $100,000 California Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields. A victory could catapult her into the field of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on April 7, and trainer Vladimir Cerin would like to have Baze accompany her.

"One of the considerations about running was that Russell would ride," said Cerin, who watched Baze guide Will O Way to a 5 1/2-length victory in her only other appearance at Golden Gate Fields, the Corte Madera Stakes on Dec. 13.

Will O Way was a heavy favorite in the Corte Madera, and Cerin said Baze fit her nicely.

Cerin said of the ease of her victory, "A lot came down to how he rode her."

Will O Way ran third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in her second start and third in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel in her last start, which came on Jan. 11 at Santa Anita.

"This is one of our goals," Cerin said of the California Oaks. "We'd like her to run well and get some confidence. We think she's a pretty nice filly."

Cerin was confident going into the Santa Ysabel - "I was hoping she'd win her last start," he said - but the filly raced between horses and was boxed in, he said, which compromised her chances.

Three of Saturday's rivals have met Will O Way in stakes.

Oso Blanco was third to Will O Way's sixth in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita last fall. She will make her first start since finishing fourth in the Blue Norther on the turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 28.

Digestivo ran third behind Will O Way in the Corte Madera in her first start around two turns. She came back to win an allowance race at a mile on Jan. 9 here. Her stablemate Montana Fields trailed Will O Way in the Del Mar Debutante, Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes, and the Moccasin.

Point of Reference, third in the six-furlong Tiburon at Golden Gate on Jan. 10, will make her first start around two turns. She drew the rail and has a bullet six-furlong work since her stakes placing.

Be So Special and Miss Lion Heart will both make their stakes debut in the Oaks.