04/10/2007 11:00PM

Fine line between two contenders

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Lang Field and True Dancer will not be too far apart in Friday's seventh race at Santa Anita - as the race unfolds or at the wire.

Lang Field is a front-runner, while True Dancer races near the front. Both have displayed recent form good enough to win the optional claimer, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Lang Field, trained by Art Sherman for Nigel Shields, won for the first time on turf in an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on March 17, leading throughout. It was his second victory in four starts since joining Sherman's stable before the start of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting in December.

Last year, Lang Field raced in the Midwest, where he was claimed for $30,000 by Shields and trainer Michael Tammaro last July.

"He's come around," Sherman said. "He had a good trainer in Kentucky but there wasn't a lot of spots for him at the end of Churchill."

Lang Field, 4, has won 3 of 13 starts. The recent allowance race win is his richest victory.

"We've just kind of picked our spots," Sherman said. "The grass has been another option. I think he has the potential to be a decent horse."

True Dancer, 7, has won 9 of 28 starts and $263,136. Although winless in three starts this year, he has been second or third in each race. He was second in the Cotton Fitzsimmons Handicap at Turf Paradise in January and third in the Luck of the Irish Handicap at Bay Meadows on March 18.

"I don't think he liked the soft turf at Bay Meadows last time," trainer Jeff Mullins said. "He seems to run well down here.

"He's a trier. He is right there every time. He gets a check every time. He's going to run good. They don't want to make any mistakes around him."

True Dancer is entered to be claimed for $62,500. His last win came at that level, in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park last November.

Lang Field and True Dancer have four rivals, including Gem Proof, who was a heart-breaker for bettors on March 23. He had a half-length lead in the final furlong of a one-mile optional claimer on turf but appeared to pull himself up in the final sixteenth. He finished second, beaten a nose by Storm Mate.