12/06/2001 1:00AM

Females go long on turf yet again


ALBANY, Calif. - Saturday's $55,000-added Golden Poppy Handicap at at Golden Gate Fields is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the the Lakeside turf course.

So what else is new? There hasn't been a northern California route stakes on the dirt for fillies and mares since the 1 1/16-mile Luther Burbank at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa. There were two route stakes on the turf at the Bay Meadows Fair and two more during the Bay Meadows fall meeting. The first six route stakes for females at Golden Gate Fields are scheduled for the turf, although last Sunday's Moment to Buy Handicap was switched to the main track.

The first main-track route stakes is the March 2 Sacramento Handicap, more than seven months since the previous route stakes on dirt.

Trainer Terry Knight, who will run Mimi's Cafe in Saturday's stakes, is lucky because Mimi's Cafe is capable of running either on the dirt or turf.

"I would hope they would not run on the grass," Knight said about Saturday's race.

Knight, like many other northern California trainers, is unhappy with the lack of balance between dirt and turf stakes.

"It's been ridiculous," he said. "I had another filly that I wanted to try to stretch out."

Robert Anderson, who has come to northern California from Hastings Park in Vancouver, wouldn't mind running Grey Tobe Free on the main track. She has won twice in three starts on off tracks.

He would prefer the Golden Poppy to go on the turf, though.

"We really wanted to try turf with her," he said, noting that Grey Tobe Free's sire, Free at Last, "won more stakes on the turf than dirt. We'd like to give her an opportunity just to see if she can handle turf, but if they switch, mud wouldn't bother her."

Mimi's Cafe comes off a fourth-place finish in the Cal Cup Matron at Santa Anita in her last start on Nov. 3.

"She never got in contact with the field," said Knight, who considers the race a throwout.

"She's had four or five weeks since, and that's helped her mentally," Knight said.

Grey Tobe Free hasn't run since scoring a $41 upset in Hastings Park's Ballerina Stakes on Oct. 8, winning by six lengths.

"If she did win, I thought she'd just beat the two hotshot runners, but she annihilated the field," Anderson said.

The 4-year-old Grey Tobe Free had run consistently as a 3-year-old until she chipped an ankle and needed surgery. She came back and trained well but did not run well this year until Anderson discovered a thyroid problem and treated it. She has won two stakes since then.

"She's training well," said Anderson, although she has been unable to get on the turf course.

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