10/20/2003 11:00PM

Expresso Bay has look of winner

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ARCADIA, Calif. - After 28 starts, mostly in claiming races, Expresso Bay has Breeders' Cup written all over him. The notion is not as absurd as it sounds.

Claimed last out by Ted H. West and owner Bruce Hochman, Expresso Bay has a long way to go before he can be compared to West's best $50,000 claims. They are rags-to-riches Budroyale, runner-up in the 1999 BC Classic, and rejuvenated former claimer Bluesthestandard, a contender Saturday in the BC Sprint. Both became graded stakes winners after being claimed.

Whether or not Expresso Bay matches their achievements, his pedigree, workout company, and physical appearance already has made Breeders' Cup 2003 memorable. Expresso Bay is a half-brother to Medaglia d'Oro, a contender in the BC Classic. And Monday at Santa Anita, Expresso Bay hooked into a team work with Zosima, a sleeper in the Juvenile Fillies. Expresso Bay's work was not recorded.

Finally, Sunday morning after Bluesthestandard's blazing work, an unrecognized horse galloped past with a shiny coat and body language so confident that he looked like a Breeders' Cup horse. An observer asked "Who was that?!" It was Expresso Bay, who runs Thursday in the seventh-race feature at Santa Anita.

A field of 11 entered the two-other-than/optional $80,000 claiming race at a mile on turf. Traditional class handicapping points to Dell Place as the logical winner. Entered for the claim price after winning a three-other-than optional claimer, Dell Place drew the outside post. With his style, it may not matter.

Dell Place is a deep closer who will be outrun early, a style that sometimes is compromised when the rails are at Thursday's 24-foot setting. It did not bother Dell Place Oct. 9, when he rallied from ninth at the head of the lane to win by a half-length. He has won 5 of 19 starts.

Expresso Bay has won 8 of 28, and is making his first start for West. Normally, West would run the horse back for $62,500, or the same $50,000 price for which he was claimed. But he has trained so well that West felt obligated to "protect" him for at least one start by running under allowance conditions. Expresso Bay's forwardly placed running style and dogged determination - he has won four straight - make him a logical contender.

Investor's Dream drops from the Live the Dream Handicap, beaten three lengths by BC Mile contender Designed for Luck. Investor's Dream is entered for a claim tag for the first time.