05/12/2003 11:00PM

Bear Fan returns in easy spot

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - The undefeated Bear Fan returns to the races after a break of more than nine months in Thursday's feature at Bay Meadows, a six-furlong $100,000 optional claimer. None of the five entrants will be running for the claiming tag.

Bred, trained, and owned in part by Wesley Ward, Bear Fan, now 4, won her debut in a $60,000 maiden race on Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park last year. She followed that with an allowance victory and finally a win in the $100,000 Fleet Treat at Del Mar. She won all three races by at least four lengths.

Bear Fan, a daughter of Pine Bluff out of the Shimatoree mare Shezalong, will be running in open company for the first time. All three of her starts last year came in Cal-bred races.

"She's making her comeback, and Wesley was looking for an easy spot," said Ward's father, Dennis, who runs the northern California portion of his son's stable.

Bear Fan is not the only comebacker in the field.

That's Our Tricky comes into the race with two straight wins. The runner-up behind Fertile in the Vallejo Stakes in February 2002, That's Our Tricky has not run since last Nov. 14.

Summer Lite will make her first start since running third in the Fairfield Stakes at Vallejo last July 20. She won the first two starts of her career last spring at Bay Meadows.

Stakes-placed Rosanda returned from a nine-month layoff and finished seventh in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful at Hollywood Park on April 28. She has had a five-furlong 59.40-second bullet drill over this track since.

But Bear Fan seems in another league from her rivals. She can win wire to wire, as she did in her second start. She can also win from off the pace. She went from seventh to first between the quarter- and half-mile calls in her debut, and rated in fourth through the opening half-mile of her stakes victory.

"She had a little problem after her stakes victory," Dennis Ward said. "Wesley turned her out for the winter at a farm in Utah. He has always liked her, and she has responded well since he brought her back."

Ward said his son believes Bear Fan will be even more effective going two turns, and she may run next in a statebred route race if all goes well Thursday.

The final member of the field is Bear Fan's stablemate Lacrystal Classic, who comes off a wire-to-wire turf victory. All three of her career victories have come in turf routes.