04/14/2003 11:00PM

Fly and Eagle looks best


ARCADIA, Calf. - After squandering a perfect trip at odds of 5-1 in his most recent start, Fly and Eagle is a contender again at a likely shorter price in the seventh race feature Thursday at Santa Anita. The 1 1/8-mile turf race for California-breds attracted a field of seven; some are out of their element.

Onebigbag is a sprinter and Lake Ray is an outclassed 3-year-old claimer. California Lite will start as one of the longest shots following a dreadful comeback race, but his turf-laden pedigree (by Saros) is one reason to consider the gelding at a large price. The other four runners will attract most of the wagering.

Raise Expectations won a modest starter allowance race last time out, Roberto's Show is 1 for 12 and stretching out following three even-paced sprints, and Sharp Boi finished five lengths behind Fly and Eagle when they met under similar conditions March 26. Based on that one-mile race, Fly and Eagle is the horse to beat Thursday.

Fly and Eagle was claimed for $12,500 last June from a restricted claiming race at Stockton, based partly on pedigree. The gelding was sired by Unusual Heat, a stallion trainer Barry Abrams was instrumental in establishing as a California sire. Fly and Eagle did not light the world on fire immediately for Abrams, but has gradually improved this spring. Following a third-place finish at 43-1 in a downhill allowance race for California-breds, Fly and Eagle stretched out to two turns.

When the expected pace battle between Fly and Eagle and Paster's Baby failed to materialize, Fly and Eagle and jockey Matt Garcia fell into a perfect trip racing alone in second. He inherited the lead when the pacesetter stopped, but was then unable to hold off the closing rally of Easy Game. Fly and Eagle lugged in, was able to hold second, and finished three lengths clear of the third-place finisher. It was the best race of his career.

It also was a missed opportunity. Fly and Eagle's odds will hover in the area of 5-2 Thursday, and while he figures for another good trip, there is no guarantee he will appreciate the additional furlong. Garcia rides Fly and Eagle, who has won one of 13 starts and earned $33,000.

Raise Expectations also comes off the best race of his career, a win that was flattered when runner-up Lunarco returned to win. Roberto's Show loses punch at longer distances and Sharp Boi is an upset candidate given his closing style in a race sure to be run at a fast pace.