07/04/2002 12:00AM

Grey Tobe Free returns after California winter

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The last time Grey Tobe Free, one of the likely favorites in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Brighouse Belles at Hastings Park, raced here was in October, when she scored a decisive victory in the $175,000 Ballerina Stakes. That powerful performance persuaded her trainer, Robbie Anderson, to take her to northern California for the winter.

"I wanted to try her on turf but the only time she had a chance to run on the grass it came up pretty wet and she finished pretty far back," said Anderson. "I'm not sure if it was the conditions, or that she just doesn't like turf."

Grey Tobe Free finished a respectable fourth in her next outing on the main track but suffered a minor injury and was turned out for the winter. Her next two starts were at Emerald where she finished a close third to Always a Dixie in the 6 1/2-furlong Washington Legislature Stakes on May 26. Sprinting is not her forte, so Anderson was expecting big things when she stretched out to a mile in the King County on June 22.

"She trained great leading up to the race but she might have been too close to the pace," said Anderson. "She just didn't have her usual kick and finished fifth."

Anderson is hoping for a quick pace in the Brighouse Belles but given the makeup of the field that's not likely to happen. "We'll just have to let her run her own race I guess," he said.

Brighouse loses fillies to Boeing

For the second straight time an older filly and mare stakes race has come up light. Only four horses showed up for the June 15 Sun Handicap, and just five horses have been entered in the Brighouse Belles. Two fillies who could have run in the Brighouse are going to Emerald for the 1 1/16-mile Boeing Stakes on July 21.

Lady's Jewel will make her 4-year-old debut in the Boeing and then come back for the B.C. Cup Distaff.

"I would have liked to have gotten her started earlier," said trainer Andrew Collins. "But her feet were bothering her this spring, so I gave her some time off." Collins was kicking himself a little because of the way the Brighouse came up. "I might have pushed her a bit more if I had known that there wasn't going to be any other speed in the race."

Lady's Jewel used her speed to win three stakes and $120,226 last year. Collins is delighted with the way she's training now.

"She was off for about a month and a half and it really did her a lot of good," he said. "When I brought her back she was like a new horse. She went from a 3-year-old to a mature 4-year-old in two months. I've never seen her more happy and she's carrying about 100 pounds more than she did last year."

It's obvious why Always a Dixie is running at Emerald. She's won the last two stakes for fillies and mares there and seems to struggle over the Hastings Park surface.

"It's not so much that she prefers a mile track," said trainer Barb Heads. "It's just that she has a hard time getting a hold of our track unless it's wet."

Always a Dixie will come back for the B.C. Cup Distaff and the $175,000 Ballerina.

Queen of My Nights, who went gate to wire to win the Sun Handicap, is also skipping the Brighouse and will make her next start in the Distaff.

"It was tempting to run in the Brighouse because she could have controlled the pace," said trainer Dino Condilenios. "But we only planned to run her a few times this year and we're sticking to our plans." Queen of My Nights also has tender feet and Condilenios wants her at her best for B.C. Cup.

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