03/25/2003 1:00AM

Closer Rollette butts bias


ALBANY, Calif. - The way speed has been favored at Golden Gate Fields, trainer Dan Markle knows he is asking a lot of late-running Rollette in Thursday's feature race.

But Markle also knows Rollette is the most accomplished horse in the field of six older fillies and mares entered in the $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs.

Rollette hasn't won since beating stablemate Whatdidshesay in a minor stakes at Emerald Downs in Seattle 11 months ago. Whatdidshesay is also entered and will make her first start in seven months.

But Rollette has always run well at Golden Gate Fields and won the Richmond Handicap in 1:08 flat.

"She'll close," Markle said. "She's probably won more short than long."

She has scored seven of her 12 victories at six furlongs, the distance of Thursday's race.

"There are some tough ones in there, but I like her chances if she's within five lengths coming out of the turn," Markle said.

Four of her five rivals have been pacesetters during their careers, and Thermal Ablasion, who has a first and second here since being claimed at Santa Anita by leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, likes to sit close to the pace.

Thermal Ablasion looks the one to beat. Pali Princess, who won by 11 over the track last year, will make her first start in eight months and could be a factor.

"That's what you're hoping for when you've got a closer, that they'll hook up early," Markle said.

Markle will be returning to Emerald Downs after Golden Gate Fields closes this week. He wants to get a race into Whatdidshesay and a sharpener for Rollette before heading to Seattle.

"It's a big benefit to get one race before you arrive up there," he said.

Shopping spree at Ocala

Excuse trainer Brian Koriner if he's already looking forward to the Bay Meadows fall meeting. He was the fifth-highest buyer at last week's Ocala 2-year-old sale in Florida, purchasing four horses for a sum of $425,000.

"I never got to spend that kind of money before," he said.

Koriner purchased a Grindstone colt out of Madruga for $150,000, a Lord Carson filly out of I Do for $140,000, a Storm Boot colt out of Motel Lass for $130,000, and an Eltish filly out of Dance All Summer for $25,000.

"They're all nice [horses]," Koriner said. "They all have good conformation and all have size. I don't plan to run them until Bay Meadows opens in August."

Hollendorfer purchased a filly by Editor's Note out of Charge D'Affaires for $22,000.

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