05/22/2001 12:00AM

Invader from L.A. the one to catch


SAN MATEO, Calif. - She's Grand, who finished second in the Fran's Valentine at Hollywood Park April 28, appears the one to beat when she drops into a second-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Bay Meadows on Thursday.

The Fran's Valentine was restricted to California-bred fillies and mares, but the purse was $175,000 and the winner was Rare Charmer, a Grade 2 winner as recently as February at Santa Anita.

Before her second-place finish in the Fran's Valentine, She's Grand was racing well in second-level allowance/$80,000 optional claiming races at Santa Anita, and those races are tougher than Thursday's second-level allow-ance/$50,000 optional claiming race. Jenine Sahadi trains the 5-year-old mare, and she has named Dennis Carr to ride.

If She's Grand falters, the race is thrown wide open, as most of the others have been racing against each other and finishing necks and noses apart.

Another serious factor in the equation is Another Approval, who has won her last three starts, including her last two for a $25,000 claiming price. This 6-year-old Another Approval has won 3 of her 5 career starts over the Bay Meadows turf course, and is double tough when she is able to get an easy lead. She is stepping up in class Thursday, but her Beyer Speed Figures indicate she can contend with these, and it looks as though she should be able to get her preferred easy lead in this field.

Other contenders include Susanne, Bates of Course, Wolfnik, and Mauricienne, who finished second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in a five-horse blanket finish in a similar spot on May 3. Fifth-place Mauricienne, who was the 7-5 favorite, was only about 1 1/4 lengths behind Susanne at the wire.

Rounding out the field is Sheba Spring, who was fourth in a similar spot at Golden Gate March 16 - only a head behind third-place Wolfnik - and subsequently finished fifth in a race at Santa Anita, only 2 1/2 lengths behind She's Grand.