05/20/2004 11:00PM

Crossing Borders has tools to compete


SAN MATEO, Calif. - One race does not a career make. But one race can open eyes to possibilities.

The possibilities for Crossing Borders, a $20,000 Keeneland yearling purchase last September, are still open to speculation, but his debut victory on Thursday at least has jockey Pedro Mercado looking forward to a second chance to ride the 2-year-old son of Roar.

Breaking from the rail, Crossing Borders won his debut by a half-length over Prescrip-tionneeded. The winning time for the 4 1/2 furlongs was 52.85 seconds, which is not particularly fast. But sometimes the eyes see things that stopwatches can't describe.

Crossing Borders broke alertly and was part of the early pace battle. Coming to the turn, he seemed intimidated and took back, steadying near the three-eighths pole.

Mercado settled him down while losing ground on the turn and was well back, seemingly out of contention into the stretch, but Crossing Borders was picking up momentum as he raced free and clear. When Mercado hit him, he kicked into another gear, making up nearly five lengths on Prescription-needed, who had taken the lead in the lane.

"He's very green," said the underrated Mercado, who has 12 wins and an 18 percent winning average at the meet. "I sent him to the lead, but he got trapped in tight on the rail and shied away. When I put him outside and he didn't have dirt hitting him in the face, he started running. He went like a Cadillac in the lane."

It's hard to make a judgment based on the competition, and trainer Mike Machowsky, who sent the colt north from Santa Anita, traditionally has good success with first-timers.

Crossing Borders can obviously close, but he may be capable of more. "That kind of colt, if he's outside, might clear and win easy," Mercado said.

Attack Force leads Sunday co-feature

Attack Force, who has hit the board in six of seven starts this year, drops back into a six-furlong sprint against eight rivals in Sunday's co-feature. The 4-year-old gelding, who drew the outside post, was second in his last sprint against the talented T S Eliot and should fire late here.

Easy Million bids for a repeat as he steps up to allowance company from the starter-allowance level in the other feature, at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. He has adapted well since moving to the turf and will be hard to hold off with his strong closing kick.

* Jockey Dennis Carr, coming back from a hairline fracture of the third metacarpal bone in his right hand, had expected to ride this weekend. He worked his first horse Thursday but still had some pain closing his hand, so he now plans to come back Wednesday.