06/02/2004 12:00AM

Eight Karat lands in softer spot

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Although he has started only nine horses, trainer Genaro Vallejo has proved he knows what he's doing, having won three times.

Vallejo isn't afraid to take a calculated risk, as he did when he entered Eight Karat in the San Jose Handicap last month. The filly ran third behind Heavenly Humor and Secret Corsage in a strong effort.

Eight Karat now drops back into first-level allowance company as Bay Meadows presents its strongest Friday night card of the meeting. In addition to the one-other-than allowance race for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, there's a strong $25,000 claiming sprint featuring Smoke Till Dawn, the track record- holder for six furlongs at Golden Gate Fields.

That's a long cry from recent cards, such as last Friday's, when a $16,000 claimer was the night's feature.

Eight Karat has five rivals, including Slews in Demand, who has split decisions with her in their last two meetings.

Slews in Demand was second and Eight Karat sixth in an April 7 turf race.

"We tried to run her on grass because she's bred for grass. We wanted to see if she liked it," Vallejo said.

Her ability to run on turf is far from decided, but Vallejo brought her back to the main track for her next start, where she finished second, two lengths in front of third-place Slews in Demand on April 28.

"We want to run her long, and that was the next spot," Vallejo said.

Although Eight Karat retained her condition, Vallejo and owner Warren McGuire decided to take a shot in the stakes.

Although Eight Karat never threatened the top pair, she was an easy third.

"We were happy with her race, and she's been training well," Vallejo said.

"I think this is the right spot. We'll run for this condition and see how she does. Then we may have some options for the fairs."

Eight Karat does not show much early speed and may need some help up front.

Luisathebeachhouse, coming off a wire-to-wire $32,000 starter allowance victory, should set the pace with Corporal Greiner trying to keep her honest.

* Apprentice jockey Juan Avila begins a five-day suspension Friday for causing internference aboard Amaral A.B.C. in last Saturday's fifth race. Amaral A.B.C. lugged in on the turn, cutting off Dreamin Demon.