06/30/2003 12:00AM

Beret may be stakes material

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CHICAGO - Beret wears the mantle of the next stakes horse for trainer Harvey Vanier. One more win, in Arlington's featured eighth race Wednesday, and Beret might earn a start in the Modesty Handicap here later this month.

It was three seasons ago that Wade for Me, a Harvey and Nancy Vanier homebred, posted a mild upset in the Grade 3 Modesty. Beret is also a family horse, though she was a $20,000 Keeneland sales yearling in 2000. Nancy Vanier and Lyda Williamson, the Vaniers' daughter, are listed as her owners. Williamson's husband, Brian, is Vanier's assistant, and he spent the spring readying Beret for the first start of her 4-year-old season.

That came June 6 at Arlington, and Beret picked up right where she left off last fall. In a second-level turf allowance race, Beret relaxed behind a slow pace, moved up on her own beginning at the half-mile pole, and was ridden out to an easy 1 1/2-length victory.

"I didn't want to ask her too much, because I didn't know how fit she'd be," said Chris Emigh, the only rider ever to sit on Beret during a race. "But I didn't have to ask her. She did it herself."

Beret has the makings of a very nice animal. She has tactical speed, and has run well on the lead, but she also will rate nicely behind horses and come with a snappy stretch punch. "You just ride her away from there and try to get her to relax," Emigh said.

A jump in allowance conditions rarely is easy, and Beret didn't beat the strongest field in her comeback race. Nevertheless, she is the solid pick to continue her advance through the allowance ranks in Wednesday's one-mile grass race.

Eleven horses, led by Honorville and Melody Blue, oppose Beret. Honorville and Melody Blue exit the same June 11 allowance race, a roughly run race in which both fillies got into trouble. As the horses galloped out past the finish, a fan was heard saying to trainer Gene Cilio, "The 5 horse got fouled." Cilio stared, shook his head, and said, "That was me."

Indeed, Honorville had a horrible trip that day, steadied on the backstretch and fouled in deep stretch just as she found her best stride.

A 4-year-old with only two grass starts, Honorville has upside for the streaking Cilio barn and jockey Curt Bourque.

Melody Blue ran right off the plane that brought her here from Southern California. Now trained by Mike Stidham, Melody Blue was just outside Honorville when the bumping began, and her California form makes her dangerous.