02/02/2007 1:00AM

Come out early to catch feature


ALBANY, Calif. - Consistent blue-collar horses take the spotlight on Golden Gate Fields's early card on Super Bowl Sunday.

A field of five $25,000 claimers will go 1 1/16 miles in the first race on a card that begins at 11:15 a.m. Pacific.

The runners in the field are the offensive linemen of racing, getting few headlines but providing the backbone of the industry.

Tonco, the likely favorite, will be making his 69th career start. He was winless for 37 straight races from Oct.o30, 2003, to Nov. 26, 2006, when he won for a $32,000 tag and then repeated in a $25,000 race from which the now 9-year-old was claimed. Tonco has earned $340,450 with 8 wins, 18 seconds, and 10 thirds.

Tonco has turned things around by getting into races earlier. He went wire to wire in his two victories and battled on a contested pace last time before finishing second.

Happy Zone comes off a victory at this level following a seven-week freshening. An earner of $102,048, he could have an advantage in this race because of his style. He will sit back early in a stalking position behind what could be a contested pace.

Happy Zone trailed when Tonco snapped his long losing streak, fading on the second turn over a sloppy track. In his victory, Happy Zone made a quick move down the backstretch to stick his head in front and continued gamely from there.

Blacktie Tonight dueled with Happy Zone in his last start as he, too, returned from seven weeks on the sidelines. He lost a photo for second but has a pair of maintenance works since.

Red Wagon, who is better on the turf but scored his maiden victory over this track, stopped in a $50,000 optional claimer in his last start following a 2 1/2-month break. He has had a bullet work and another maintenance drill since he raced.

Diamond Indy returns to this level after dropping and getting claimed in his last start. An allowance winner one year ago, he has $76,845 in earnings despite only two lifetime victories while spending most of his career in allowance company. He should be able to sit just behind Tonco and Blacktie Tonight early.

* In addition to the early post, Golden Gate Fields will be in the Super Bowl spirit, giving away a 42-inch plasma TV after each of the day's eight races.