09/07/2001 11:00PM

Graded company on scene


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Two graded stakes winners and a graded stakes-placed horse will be among six 3-year-olds in the $36,000 allowance feature at 1 1/16 miles on the turf here Monday.

Hoovergetthekeys has won two Grade 3 races on dirt this year, while Sir Alfred captured the Grade 3 Ascot Handicap over the turf here, and Sea to See has been second, third, or fourth in four consecutive stakes, including a close fourth in the Grade 3 Will Rogers at Hollywood Park and a third in the Ascot.

Sir Alfred, Hoovergetthekeys, and Sea to See actually finished first, second, and third, respectively, in the Ascot, and were only separated by a length.

Since the Ascot, the three have met again, with Sea to See finishing fourth, Sir Alfred fifth, and Hoovergetthekeys seventh in the Grade 3 La Jolla at Del Mar. Hoovergetthekeys was about eight lengths behind the other two, but was fanned wide around the first turn.

Although a handicapper should not put too much emphasis on one race, especially over another track, it is hard to make a strong case for Hoovergetthekeys to win, since Sir Alfred has now beaten him twice in a row, fair and square, on two different turf courses, including this one.

The toughest challenge may be to try to separate Sir Alfred and Sea to See, as Sea to See finished only a length behind Sir Alfred in the Ascot, then finished a neck in front of that rival in the La Jolla. In between the Ascot and La Jolla, Sea to See finished second in the Oceanside, also at Del Mar, while Sir Alfred took a little time off.

Perhaps that slight break by Sir Alfred will make the difference in a tough call Monday. He may be a little fresher and, after all, he did beat Sea to See over the Bay Meadows turf. Any of the three can win, however.

A case can be made for Hoovergetthekeys off his Ascot performance, as there was no real pace in that race and he ended up on the lead. All of his biggest races came when he was rated off the pace.