10/20/2003 11:00PM

Eight fillies enter the unknown


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Eight 2-year-old maiden fillies, all making their turf debuts, present an interesting challenge to handicappers at Bay Meadows on Thursday.

For half the field, the one-mile race will mark not only a first time on turf, but also a first try around two turns.

With much uncertainty surrounding the race, it should be a good betting proposition. The horse worth looking at could be Fair Millielillie.

She made her debut in a stakes race, and although she didn't run well, she received strong support, going off at 7-2. Fair Millielillie showed more speed early in her next start, but has beaten only one runner in those two races while losing by a combined margin of more than 29 lengths.

Nonetheless, she should attract interest in this field for trainer Armando Lage, who shows a flat-bet profit with first-timers on turf as well as dirt-to-turf and sprint-to-route switches.

Adding to her attraction is the highest turf Tomlinson in the field, as well as a strong distance number. Her stablemate Charbonnier - who, like Fair Millielillie, was sired by Robannier - won the first 2-year-old turf race of the year on Sunday.

"She's pretty much like the colt," Lage said. "Her races have been nondescript, but I think the turf will help her even more. She's bred top and bottom for turf."

Lage also trains Academy Lass, a daughter of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy, who will break from the outside post. She has not beaten a single rival and has lost by more than 34 lengths in her two starts.

She should also like the turf, and while breeding is an important consideration, Lage takes more than that into account when putting a 2-year-old on the grass.

"If they're bred for turf, you have to give it a try," he said. "Their action tells a lot, too. You also have to see if they can handle a distance."

Close call for Blue Blood Boot

Blue Blood Boot, who scored his first career victory here in the Half Moon Bay Handicap, flew home from Hawthorne on Monday after crashing through the inner rail while leading in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby.

"So far, the injuries appear minor," trainer Terry Knight said. "He has a few cuts and scrapes, and he's a little body-sore. He ate up everything that night and didn't look like he was any worse for it. I think the trainer was in more distress than he was."

Jockey Larry Sterling was not injured in the incident.