10/13/2004 12:00AM

Each start a 'Special' occurrence


ARCADIA, Calif. - Special Rate has had a limited campaign in the last year, but when he does start it is often a performance worth noting.

Last fall, Special Rate won the Bien Bien Stakes at Hollywood Park. In August at Del Mar, he returned from a seven-month layoff to win an optional claimer over a mile on turf.

Friday at Santa Anita, will start as the favorite against a strong field in a $53,000 optional claimer over a mile on turf.

The optional claimer, the seventh race on an eight-race program that begins at 2:30 p.m., could be a springboard for future stakes. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Special Rate is seeking the fourth victory of his career.

Friday's race should set up in Special Rate's favor.

At least three horses will contribute to a quick pace: Wild Babe, who won a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in July; Billy's Echo, a winner over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar on Sept. 1; and Golden Arrow, who was stakes placed at Del Mar.

was second to Stage Player in an optional claimer on Aug. 12. Stage Player returned to win the California Turf Championship at Bay Meadows on Sept. 6.

Earlier this summer, Golden Arrow was third in the Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar.

"He runs so hard every time," trainer Neil Drysdale said.

Golden Arrow does not need the lead. He finished second by a neck at Hollywood Park in June after stalking the pace.

Special Rate will have company behind the leaders. Bis Repetitas, trained by Frankel, is a closer. A 4-year-old, he was stakes placed at 2 and 3, but has struggled in the last year.

Aside from Golden Arrow, the biggest threat to Special Rate may be Dell Place, a 5-year-old gelding who has excelled in one-mile turf races in the last year. He won an optional claimer at Hollywood Park in April and a $62,500 claimer at Del Mar on Sept. 5. With few allowance conditions available, trainer Mike Mitchell has entered Dell Place to be claimed for $100,000 for Friday's race.

Dell Place will be closing late. In his last start, Dell Place was last of seven until the quarter pole and rallied between horses to win by a comfortable three lengths.