11/15/2001 12:00AM

Frankel tries heady jump once again

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It's quite a leap to start in a maiden-claimer in Kentucky and only a few months later win a graded stakes in New York or California. That's what trainer Bobby Frankel will be trying to do on Saturday, when he sends out Labamta Babe in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Will this be You, part deux? Frankel acquired You, a 2-year-old filly, for owner Ed Gann after she ran in Kentucky, beginning in maiden-claiming company. You went on to become one of her division's leaders, highlighted by a victory in the Frizette Stakes.

Labamta Babe, a 2-year-old colt, also was purchased for Gann by Frankel, who was working in concert with bloodstock agent Mark Reid, the former trainer of such notables as Mr. Nickerson. Labamta Babe has won just once in three starts, and has yet to run in a stakes race, but Frankel believes the colt can improve significantly.

"I hope so," Frankel said Thursday morning at Hollywood Park. "He's got some filling out to do. He trains really good."

Labamta Babe, who figures to stalk the pace, is meeting a field filled with speed. He finished well to be second in his last start when facing Handsome Hunk, who came out of that Keeneland allowance race to win the Fort Springs Stakes at Keeneland.

With front-runners such as Popular, Heavyweight Champ, Royal Moro, and the comebacking Fonz's in the lineup, the race might best suit a colt like Roman Dancer, who rolled to a four-length victory in the Sunny Slope Stakes during Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. Roman Dancer had led after a quarter-mile in his three previous races, but showed more sensibility in the Sunny Slope.

"He surprised me," said Christopher Paasch, who trains Roman Dancer. "He broke well, but another horse cleared him, and he relaxed. . . . If he can rate like that, I think he can get a mile."

Heavyweight Champ is the most accomplished horse in the field. He has won twice, finished in the money in all five starts, and has been stakes-placed in the Sanford Stakes, Saratoga Special, and Champagne Stakes. This will be his first start outside of New York. He figures to be fighting for the lead from the outset. A return to seven furlongs, from the Champagne's 1 1/16 miles, suits him.

Popular and Royal Moro both beat maidens in fast time during the Oak Tree meeting. Fonz's ran two outstanding races here during the summer meeting, and has worked swiftly for his return.

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