11/17/2006 1:00AM

Don't look for Athlete till stretch


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Michael Lenzini was happy when he saw a five-furlong turf race available for Athlete at Bay Meadows on Sunday.

He was even happier when entries were drawn for the $62,500 optional claimer.

Athlete has five rivals, each with one thing in common: they all want to be on the lead.

Athlete is content to sit back early and will probably be the trailer early before unleashing his late kick. He's used that style with good success when sprinting on the turf, with two wins, two seconds and a third in eight tries.

"I was happy to see all that speed when I looked at the past performances," Lenzini said.

Izzacopy, Black Jack Joe, Left 'Em Burning, Vaderator, and Prison Bound are all capable of sub-45-second half-miles.

"It's amazing how horses such as Athlete can be so good at this distance," Lenzini said. "You'd think they'd only be speed horses that do best at this distance, but they don't dominate. I think everybody goes too fast early."

Lenzini thinks Athlete would really be at his best going 6 1/2 furlongs. But he does love the turf.

"He doesn't like dirt in his face," Lenzini said.

So Athlete sits back and comes flying late with no dirt clods hitting him.

Conversely, there is the speedball Left 'Em Burning, who has a pair of sub-44-second half-miles to his credit.

"He's a one-way horse," said his trainer, Daniel Franko. "He blows out of the gate and runs his heart out. If he clears, he'll be okay. Maybe he'll be the speed of the speed."

Franko has tried training Left 'Em Burning to slow down, but to little avail.

"As soon as he sees a horse and knows he's going to work or race, he's gone," Franko said. "This horse is just one dimensional."

Black Jack Joe and Vaderator come off solid wins on the dirt, but Black Jack Joe previously lost to the 3-year-old Izzacopy, who draws the rail for his turf debut.

Prison Bound was a wire-to-wire winner over Athlete on the turf at Santa Rosa, but didn't face extended pressure that day.

The fresh Left 'Em Burning brings a best-of-59 58.80-second five-furlong work into the race.