05/02/2007 11:00PM

Freshened 'Tribute' looks ready

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Andy Mathis is as enthusiastic about Best Tribute as any horse he has in his barn.

"I think she's one of the better horses I have and has a chance to have a very good year," he said.

Best Tribute makes her first start in six months in Saturday's feature at Golden Gate Fields, a one-mile allowance race for fillies and mares on the turf.

Best Tribute was given four full months away from the track after a fifth-place finish, beaten 5 1/4 lengths by the solid Loyal Bounty, in an allowance race last Oct. 28, and has eight works over the past two months for her return.

The works aren't fast, but they are steady, and Mathis is satisfied with where the 5-year-old Best Tribute is as far as conditioning goes.

"She never has worked well," Mathis said. "She's matured and knows what she has to do in a race. We're not going to force her to do something she doesn't want in the morning."

Mathis is 2 for 7 with layoff horses since January 2006. Bettors who played each of Mathis's layoff horses have more than doubled their money. Best Tribute's Beyers, consistently in the 70s in her six turf starts last year, make her a contender in her comeback.

Mathis was looking for a turf route for Best Tribute's first start this season.

"If you run six furlongs on the dirt to get a prep, she'll get almost nothing out of it, and you're wasting a race," he said. "She's pretty fit. She is better on the grass. She's fresh. She might need a race, but we've got to go. If she needs a race, it's not the end of the world."

On the turf, Best Tribute has three wins, a second, and a third, all in lower-level claimers. She's 0 for 2 against allowance company, but ran fourth and a late-closing fifth in those two races.

"She got burned in those races by lone speed getting an easy pace," Mathis said. "But she was running and catching horses that weren't stopping."

Mathis would love a fast pace for Best Tribute to chase, but there seems to be little speed in Saturday's feature.

Bonsall Beauty has won two straight since coming north. She won a maiden claiming sprint, then went wire-to-wire setting slow fractions in a starter allowance race in her turf debut.

Six Cents of Humor has been able to sit close to decent splits, but faded badly here in a claimer last out.

Skip's Gal sat close to a fairly brisk pace last time before fading behind Montreux, one of her rivals again on Saturday.

Kendrick's Patsy, a winner of two straight on the turf, and Sketch, who just won a starter allowance on the turf, will be coming from off the pace like Best Tribute.