10/13/2004 12:00AM

Distanceno problem for Horatio


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Variety, that proverbial spice of life, can also liven up a mundane race card.

Racing secretary Greg Brent has done that Friday at Bay Meadows, carding an interesting 1 3/8-mile turf race for the day's feature. The $32,000 claimer drew seven entries.

As long as the race is, one of the runners is shortening up. Horatio comes off an eight-length victory in a two-mile race at Emerald Downs on Sept. 20.

Although he showed little in his one turf start, which came at Keeneland, Horatio appears a legitimate contender here. The 80 Beyer he earned in his Emerald victory was a career best, and is in line with what he had been running since he returned to the races following a 19-month layoff.

Lover Marshal, an Argentine import looking for his first U.S. victory, comes into the race after running third at the distance at Fairplex. In his native Argentina, he won at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, and he's shown steady improvement since arriving in the United States this year.

But of Course ran third at 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Hollywood Park against better this year, while B.Z. Jones won at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt against easier at Del Mar on the main track.

Lucayan Indian's three wins on the turf here are only one shy of the total turf victories of the rest of the field.

Tygemini may be the sharpest runner, with a photo loss and photo win in the maiden claiming ranks followed by a good third against horses similar to ones he meets Friday.

Classic Fool's lone career victory came at 1 1/8 miles in the Governor's Handicap at Sacramento last year.

Once the question of distance is answered to a handicapper's satisfaction, an even more important question about the race's pace must be answered. Races like this often go to a sharp runner who can steal the race by slowing it down early.

B.Z. Jones seems to have the pace advantage. Just claimed by trainer Brian Koriner, he could be tough to overhaul in the lane.

Lover Marshal should be well placed early and make first run.