07/04/2007 11:00PM

If Barber repeats last, battle will be for 2nd

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PLEASANTON, Calif. - First impressions can be important, and Barber made quite an impression on jockey David Lopez when he rode the horse to victory in a stakes-quality allowance race June 1 at Golden Gate Fields.

On Saturday, Lopez will ride Barber for a second time when they meet five rivals in the $50,000 Sam J. Whiting Handicap at six furlongs at the Alameda County Fair.

Barber earned a career-best 105 Beyer under Lopez on June 1.

"He ran a real impressive race," Lopez said. "We had a good trip. He sat behind the speed. When I asked him to move, he moved so strong. He showed his class, and the time was very good."

The 4-year-old gelding has been one of the gamest runners in Northern California, meeting the best horses in the region, from Cause to Believe to Frisco Star to Smokey Stover.

He was second to Cause to Believe in the Mill Valley in the second start of his career. He was second to the undefeated Frisco Star in the Novato and second to Corazondelcampeon in the Harry Henson at Hollywood Park during an abbreviated 3-year-old campaign.

He returned Feb. 18 after 10 months on the sidelines and ran twice at Santa Anita before returning to Bay Meadows, where he beat Blue Eyed Blond on April 8. After a fifth-place finish behind three of his Saturday rivals - Trickey Trevor, The Pharaoh and Court's in Session - in the April 29 Oakland Handicap, he won on June 1.

Unlike in his last race, when he stalked the pace, he may find himself on the lead in the Whiting, which doesn't have much speed.

"I don't have to take the lead, but it's one option," said Lopez, who has watched the track play more and more to its reputation as a speed-favoring track. "He's easy to control."

Jet West, making his first start since losing a photo in the Governor's Cup last Sept. 24 at Fairplex, does have speed and is fresh.

Both Trickey Trevor, who won the Oakland Handicap, and the stakes winner Court's in Session are best when they sit back. The Pharaoh has some speed but also comes from a bit off the pace.

Sharp Writer, making his first start since running the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch on the Santa Anita turf last Sept. 30, appears to be using the race as a prep for longer.