07/05/2002 12:00AM

Costa has Alamedan 1-2 punch


PLEASANTON, Calif. - If trainer Fred Costa is correct, he may surprise a few people in Sunday's $50,000 Alamedan Handicap on closing day at the Alameda County Fair.

Costa is sending out an entry in the 1 1/16-mile race, and he's confident one of his horses will be in front at some point during the race.

Fight for Silver should be the speed of the race, and Ironman Dehere, who won the Pleasanton Stakes here last year as a 3-year-old, will be coming from off the pace.

Although Fight for Silver, who finished seventh in last Saturday's Sam J. Whiting Handicap at six furlongs, seems to have the role as a rabbit, Costa believes he could be a factor at the finish.

"Speed plays well on this track," he said. "I'm hoping he can carry his speed farther."

Fight for Silver and Sempai hooked up in a torrid pace duel in the Sam J. Whiting, setting things up for Profound Secret. But there is no early speed like Sempai signed up Sunday, so Fight for Silver should have an easier time on the front end under Myra Truitt.

"She knows the horse," Costa said, noting she's one of the few journeyman riders who could make the assigned 111 pounds.

"I know we're coming back quickly, but he's run well on quick turnarounds before, and he should have an easier time early."

Fight for Silver underwent minor surgery in November 2000 for a paralyzed flapper that affected his breathing. Costa said Fight for Silver is only now "learning he has extra air" when he runs. Costa also said the 5-year-old horse, who has earned $116,719, should be fitter Sunday after missing some training time before the Whiting with an abscess in his foot.

While Fight for Silver may steal the race, Costa's primary hope appears to be Ironman Dehere.

"He's one of the better horses I've ever trained," said Costa of the 4-year-old colt.

Ironman Dehere has earned $144,490, with 6 victories, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 22 starts.

He won a pair of races at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, including the $35,000 Black Mountain Handicap, before returning to the Bay Area where he finished fifth after almost being knocked down on the turn in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap on March 30 at Golden Gate Fields and fourth in the Grade 3 All American Handicap June 8 at Bay Meadows.