09/09/2001 11:00PM

Hyder can handle this level

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Hyder, who won in a similar spot during the fair season, looks tough to beat in Wednesday's $34,000 allowance-optional claiming feature at Bay Meadows.

Hyder, a $16,000 claim by trainer R.L. Martin nearly a year ago, won at this second allowance level in January, and has been racing well at the same level all summer by going in for the optional claiming price of $40,000. In five recent starts at the level, he has two seconds, a third, and a fourth in addition to his recent win.

The 4-year-old Hyder's last two races, however, were among the best of his career. On July 28, he was beaten less than two lengths when fourth in the Ernest Finley Handicap at Santa Rosa. Then, in his recent win over this track, he posted a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

Wednesday, Hyder has only four foes in the six-furlong race, and three of them are coming off long layoffs.

The main threat is probably Retro Fever, from the Dan Hendricks stable. Retro Fever, a 4-year-old son of Bertrando, showed considerable promise last year, beating straight maidens at Del Mar with a 96 Beyer and later winning a first-level allowance race at Fairplex Park with a 91. He was third, fifth, and seventh in three subsequent starts at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, but those were all on the turf.

Retro Fever hasn't started since Dec. 9, but Hendricks can bring them back as well as anyone. It is interesting that Hendricks is running the horse here, since he ran so well at Fairplex Park last year and that meeting is currently under way. As long as he has been away, the trainer could run him there for a claiming price, but he apparently does not want to risk him for a tag right now.

Hobar, from the Jerry Hollendorfer stable, has not started since Jan. 10, when he finished fourth for a $32,000 stag. Hollendorfer also has an excellent record with comebackers, and this 5-year-old has been training in super fashion.

The final layoff horse is Sempai, from the Lonnie Arterburn stable. The 3-year-old Sempai showed considerable promise early this year but will be facing older foes for the first time.