04/26/2007 11:00PM

Freesgood vs. Pirates Deputy again

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for

3-year-olds is the richest race on the California Gold Rush card, but Sunday at Hollywood Park the Snow Chief plays second fiddle to the best race on the card - the $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

In the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief, which goes as race 9, Freesgood and Pirates Deputy renew a rivalry that began when they finished one-two in the California Cup Juvenile six months ago, and little has changed. Pirates Deputy and Freesgood remain the leaders of a nondescript division. Leesider and Tap It Light will try to spring an upset.

Pirates Deputy, trained by Bob Baffert, has not raced since a bleak effort Feb. 3 in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, but recent workouts suggest imminent improvement. Runner-up in the Cal Cup and Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot, Pirates Deputy won the seven-furlong Cal Breeders' Stakes prior to the Sham. Garrett Gomez rides Pirates Deputy, who has 2 wins in 8 starts.

Pirates Deputy will try to give Baffert his third Snow Chief win in five years.

The Bill Currin-trained Freesgood, runner-up March 10 in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows, is in top form. Currin, whose best 3-year-old Stormello is aiming for the Kentucky Derby, is realistic in assessing the ability of Freesgood.

He "does not have the brilliance or the speed of Stormello, but he will go on and on," Currin said. Freesgood, owned and bred by Currin and partner Al Eisman, has won 2 of 7 starts. Kent Desormeaux rides Freesgood, a son of Free House.

Freesgood has been mentioned as a candidate for the Preakness Stakes, but Currin has backed off on that enterprising plan. Freesgood "would have to go out and win pretty easy, and I don't think that's going to

happen," Currin said.

The best new shooter is Leesider, a Bertrando colt with a conspicuous upward pattern. Leesider finished nowhere last year in two sprints for trainer Paddy Gallagher, but began living up to his pedigree when he stretched out and matured. Leesider won a slow maiden race Feb. 22 and improved on March 30, finishing second in a first-level allowance. Leesider set a fast pace and finished more than eight lengths clear of third in that race. The horse that beat him, Like New Money, was the only older horse in the field that day.

With Gallagher out of town; assistant Jamie Lloyd will saddle Leesider. "He's improving, he's definitely improving," Lloyd said. "He's grown a lot, he's bigger and stronger."

Leesider has trained all spring on the Cushion Track, and his versatile running style allows him to adapt to any pace scenario. Alex Solis rides Leesider for owner Patrick Sheehy.

Tap It Light has won 3 of 12 starts, including two open optional claimers at Santa Anita. A gelded son of General Meeting trained by Doug O'Neill, Tap It Light will be ridden by Michael Baze.

The field for the Snow Chief also includes Brave Sun, a 4-for-12

shipper from Northern California, and longshots The Supply Program, Zoning In, and C.T. Zee.