10/20/2004 11:00PM

'Chips' new horse this fall

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Chips Are Down was a disappointment for trainer Bob Baffert during the Del Mar meeting earlier this year. But an impressive maiden victory by Chips Are Down at Santa Anita earlier this month has Baffert changing his mind.

"I had horses that didn't like Del Mar. He was one of those," Baffert said. "When I got him here, he was a different horse."

Chips Are Down won a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs on Oct. 2, and on Saturday Chips Are Down makes his stakes debut in the $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs.

Owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, Chips Are Down was purchased as a yearling for $450,000. At Del Mar, he finished fifth as part of a favored entry in his career debut on Aug. 28 and was fourth on Sept. 6.

Chips Are Down is unlikely to lead, a role that could go to Seize the Day, who is trained by Kristin Mulhall. Seize the Day scored a stylish win in his debut at six furlongs on Oct. 11, drawing off by 11 lengths.

The Sunny Slope Stakes had seven nominees, but will have a field of eight following the supplementary nomination of Senor Fango for $1,500. Trained by Jerry Dutton, Senor Fango won the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar in July. He was last of four in the Cavonnier Stakes here on Sept. 30.

Two other entrants are stakes winners - Seattles Best Joe and Thresher.

Seattles Best Joe, a gelding, has won two Emerald Downs stakes at six furlongs: the Emerald Express in July and the Captain Condo Stakes for Washington-breds on Sept. 19.

Thresher, also a gelding, won the Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa in August, but was fifth in the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex Park last month.

Chips Are Down may go favored, but there will be ample support for Fallfree. Trained by Marcelo Polanco, Fallfree has been one of the top California-bred 2-year-old males this year, winning 3 of 8 starts.

Fallfree has finished second in three stakes - a half-length loss in the Graduation, a three-length loss to Top Money in the I'm Smokin Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 6, and a nose loss to Forever Foxy in the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex Park on Sept. 14.

In his last start, Fallfree won a six-furlong optional claimer at Fairplex Park on Sept. 24.