04/05/2005 11:00PM

Bells Fool has come a long way

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - One year ago, it would have been folly to think about Bells Fool contending in allowance company.

But when night racing returns to Bay Meadows on Friday, the 5-year-old Bells Fool will be a major player in the feature race, a one-mile allowance.

His primary opposition will come from Lindero, the probable favorite, and speedy Tenth Street, who makes his first start around two turns.

Last year, was a maiden who hadn't raced since April 27, 2003, when he finished third in a $6,250 maiden claimer at Portland Meadows. He won his first start of 2004, in an $8,000 maiden claimer at Solano.

Since then, he has won 3 of 9 starts and been claimed three times, the last time by Kent Molinaro for $20,000 on Dec. 2.

Given a nine-week freshener, he ran third and second after setting the pace in a pair of allowance races, alternating placings with Lindero.

Molinaro credits the success to maturity and modestly says Bells Fool's development comes from having had good trainers in the past.

"It just looked like he was getting better the older he got," said Molinaro, who put in the claim for Jerry and Laura Vaughn.

"He was kind of a nervous horse, but he's getting more seasoned. He's still amped up a bit. He showed speed and stopped, but last summer when he was with Don Mills, it seemed the further he went the better."

Lindero overtook Bells Fool the first time they met, but couldn't catch him in their last meeting. He has been favored over Bells Fool in both starts and is the probable favorite Friday night.

The presence of ensures a strong pace rival for Bells Fool. Although it is his route debut, Tenth Street's breeding indicates the one-mile distance shouldn't prove a problem.

While Bells Fool and Tenth Street battle on the pace, Lindero will sit back and make his run in the lane.

"It's going to be interesting," Molinaro said. "Tenth Street is pretty fast, but Bells Fool rated when he won in his first try at a mile in Sacramento. It will be a good test to see if he can sit the trip."

A possible price play is Other Than That, making only the fourth start of his career and second off an eight-month layoff as he tries two turns for the first time. Other Than That will sit off the pace. He was compromised in his comeback when he hopped at the start and then was forced to run wide on a day when the inside was playing better.