10/08/2003 11:00PM

Carmel key to Palo Alto

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Last month's 1 1/16-mile Carmel Handicap on grass could be a key indicator of what to expect in Saturday's $60,000-added Palo Alto Handicap on the main track at Bay Meadows.

Three of the eight 3-year-old fillies running in Saturday's one-mile stakes ran in the Carmel. Frisco Belle finished second, Calldara seventh, and Watch Out World eighth. Calldara and Watch Out World will appreciate the return to the main track, while Frisco Belle scored her only main-track victories here.

Christmas Time and Lucky Sabre, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained stakes-winning stablemates, may be the ones to beat.

Frisco Belle led in the stretch after a four-wide move in the Carmel before being passed by Cellamare. Before the Carmel Frisco Belle won a $62,500 claimer on the turf at Del Mar for trainer Greg Gilchrist.

"I wish the race was on grass. She's bred for it," Gilchrist said. "But the Bay Meadows dirt has been good to her."

The turf has probably helped Frisco Belle, but the added distance hasn't hurt, either.

"The breeding dictates she wants two turns," Gilchrist said.

Frisco Belle ran fourth in the Pleasanton Senorita in her first try around two turns, but she was blocked at the quarter pole and had no chance to run after that.

With two solid works since the Carmel, Frisco Belle figures to be one of the favorites, along with Christmas Time, who drew the outside post and may be caught in a speed duel early with Midnight Rhapsody.

Watch Out World could be an interesting longshot. A half-sister to Kentucky Derby runner-up Cavonnier, Watch Out World won the first two starts of her career but has lost four times since.

"She's developed a little slower than we thought, but going back on dirt, I like her chances a lot," trainer Armando Lage said.

Watch Out World pressed the pace in the Carmel, which was her first race in nearly two months, and also her first route and first start on turf.

"There were too many first-time things for her," Lage said. "I was very pleased with her effort. On paper, it won't look as good as it was, but she was still banging heads with the leaders into the stretch."

Watch Out World gets in light at 113 pounds, and Lage has named Francisco Duran to ride. "I know he will make the weight," Lage said.