01/24/2003 1:00AM

Dirt will have to do for this field


ALBANY, Calif. - Six older fillies and mares seemingly better suited for turf will compete in Sunday's feature race at Golden Gate Fields.

The 1 1/16-mile allowance race was listed in the condition book for turf but instead was carded on the dirt as Golden Gate officials continue to deal carefully with the turf course, which was softened by rains earlier in the meet.

"That's not real bad news," said trainer Lloyd Mason, who is the trainer of Star of Beijing. "She runs well on the main track, but she also ran well on the turf."

Star of Beijing won her maiden on the main track two races back. Of her five rivals, only Bubble's Girl has won on the dirt. Bubble's Girl, who won two claiming races at Emerald Downs last summer, has hit the board in all 10 lifetime starts. She was second at this level in a mile race in her last start.

The others in the field are likely pacesetter Beaux Artes; Mezzanine Money, who will be making her first start since a Nov. 14 turf win; Missy Krissy, who was second at a mile on the dirt last time; and Vamos Nina, who closed late in a $50,000 claimer on the turf at Santa Anita in her last start.

Star of Beijing began her career in Southern California with trainer John Shirreffs but suffered from several minor problems and was sent back to the farm. She was sent to Mason in hopes of meeting easier competition.

After several works, Star of Beijing seemed off in her right front foot so Mason made a change. He had his blacksmith put a full aluminum plate on the filly's foot. The plate holds the foot solid so it cannot expand as the horse strides on it.

"What I've found is that sometimes a horse can have a problem with a foot that never shows in X-rays," Mason said. "I feel she has a crack in the coffin bone in her right front foot."

Since the aluminum pad was added the results have been encouraging.

When stretched to 1 1/16 miles, Star of Beijing won her maiden two starts back. She missed by a half-length at 28-1 in her turf debut against winners last out.

"She's turned out to be a great story," Mason said. "Hopefully, she'll do well, and we can look at some of the stakes races here. "

Super hunch

Sunday's first post is 11:15 a.m. Pacific so that fans can get home to see the Super Bowl.

Fans may want to pay attention to a 3-year-old gelding entered in the sixth race - Raider Nation.

Asked about entering Raider Nation on Super Bowl Sunday, trainer Brian Koriner said, "Let's just say it's a good hunch."

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