03/12/2008 11:00PM

Can Vicarino catch Tribesman?

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - When Chad Schvaneveldt dons Kjell Qvale's silks prior to riding Tribesman in Saturday's Grade 3, $125,000 Bay Meadows Sprint Handicap, he may want to check the back.

Instead of an oak tree, he may find a bull's-eye.

"Chad will have a big target on his back," said Russell Baze, who will ride Vicarino.

Oak tree or bull's-eye, Schvaneveldt figures he's on the horse to catch and beat in the six-furlong race that drew four multiple stakes winners and a stakes-placed runner.

While cases can be made for Bonfante and Double Action off their best races, and stakes-placed Jack Hes Tops will offer good value, the race appears to be a virtual match race between Tribesman, who has won five straight, including two stakes, and Vicarino, who just set a Bay Meadows track record and has won two in a row at this meet.

"I hope both show up with their 'A' game," Schvaneveldt said.

If that happens, Baze agreed, "I don't think anyone else can beat them."

There won't be a lot of strategy involved. Tribesman should be able to take the lead, and Vicarino will have to apply pressure trying to wear him down.

"My horse is naturally fast. I haven't shoved on him to get the lead," Schvaneveldt said. "On the turn, that's where he accelerates."

Tribesman, trained by Roger Hansen, comes off a victory in the Phoenix Gold Cup, where he beat Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Idiot Proof.

"When I got back to the winner's circle, I told Roger, 'Idiot Who?' After that win at Phoenix, I think Roger really knows he's training a top horse. He may have had some questions going into that race," Schvaneveldt said.

"He's training well, and he seems to be getting better," Hansen said.

Though he appears relaxed and gliding, Tribesman is working hard. Hansen said that the 4-year-old Tribesman is always tired after a race. But that's a good thing.

"That's why he's a good horse," Hansen said. "He gives you everything he's got. He gets into high speed really quickly, and he does it on his own. But to go that fast, he is putting out. Horses don't go that fast."

Tribesman defeated Vicarino on Jan. 13, a race in which Vicarino was competing for the first time after a year on the sidelines.

"We basically had no chance, after a year's layoff, if we pressed him," Vicarino's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, said. "We got as much as we could out of that race.

"We know Tribesman's going to send. We're certainly not going to try to lay two or three lengths off him this time. That's where fitness comes in."

In his record-setting performance with a 55.93-second clocking in a five-furlong race in his last start Feb. 21, Vicarino broke very slowly and had to make up ground on a wet-fast track.

"We learned a lot the other day," Gilchrist said. "He can run in the mud, and he can come from off the pace."

The style Vicarino displayed in the win inspired confidence in Baze.

"My horse ran when I asked him. He got up into the bit," Baze said. "And we found out last time he doesn't mind dirt in his face."