08/31/2006 11:00PM

Cut the Mustard takes on sister act


ALBANY, Calif. - Will a pair of sisters team up to pull off a mild upset in Sunday's feature at Golden Gate Fields?

Cut the Mustard breezed to a wire-to-wire victory in a $62,000 optional claimer at five furlongs on the turf at the Bay Meadows Fair last out, and she again has a major pace advantage in Sunday's $50,000 optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track.

In addition to the speed edge, Cut the Mustard, who is entered for a tag, has two wins and a second in three starts at the distance. She also loves Golden Gate Fields, with two wins, a second, and a third in four starts here.

But the Roger Hansen-trained entry of Breeze Along and Apollonesian, a pair of Kjell Qvale homebreds, could make things interesting in the lane.

Both are out of Qvale's broodmare Breeze Chimes, though by different sires. Apollonesian, a 5-year-old by Apollo, has earned $121,501 with 2 wins and 11 on-the-board placings in 16 starts. Breeze Along, a 4-year-old by Fruition, has won $79,182 with 2 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds in 10 starts.

Breeze Along has started twice this year after a nine-month layoff and won her last start, at the Bay Meadows Fair. Apollonesian was third to Cut the Mustard on the turf, which is not her best surface, in her return from nearly nine months on the sidelines.

"They both ran well," Hansen said. "Neither was injured. We just gave them time off. They're good horses, and they work well, so they came back to the races strong."

Both of Hansen's runners are stalker types, and there doesn't seem to be much speed to challenge Cut the Mustard early in the race.

While he'd like to see someone challenge Cut the Mustard early, Hansen will not sacrifice one of his runners to help the other.

"You have to try to convince jockeys they have a chance to win from a bit off the pace in races like this," he said. "Lots of times, people really send because the distance is shorter, and they get tired. Distance or no distance, horses can still win when they sit back a bit early."

* Eight runners entered Monday's Grade 3, $150,000 Berkeley Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. From the rail out, the field is: Spellbinder, Cooperation, Attack Force, Keep on Punching, Gotaghostofachance, Texcess, Sharp Writer, and Distorted. Gotaghostofachance, making his first start since winning the Grade 3, $250,000 Sport Page Handicap on Breeders' Cup Day at Belmont Park last October, is a supplemental addition. Cooperation also was supplemented.