06/13/2003 12:00AM

It's last call for turf until August


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Closing day at Bay Meadows signals an end to turf racing in northern California until the opening of the Bay Meadows Fair on Aug. 6.

Thus it's no surprise a decent field of eight will contest Sunday's $60,000-added Foster City Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has the probable favorite in Ninebanks, freshened since consecutive victories in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile.

Hollendorfer will also send out Metatron for his turf debut. Metatron finished sixth behind winner Reba's Gold in the Grade 3 Seabiscuit Handicap on May 26.

"He's never run on the turf before, but there are some turf influences in his breeding," Hollendorfer said.

The Foster City is one of five turf races on Sunday's 10-race card. Five turf races were also scheduled for Saturday.

Hoovergetthekeys, who won last year's Alamedan at the Pleasanton Fair and won the Golden Gate Derby and El Camino Real Derby as a 3-year-old, will make his 5-year-old debut in the race. He has not run since finishing last as the favorite in the four-horse Pacifica Handicap last Oct. 26 but is looking good and has a series of nice drills for his comeback.

Geronimo, who won five straight stakes in his native Chile, was third in his U.S. debut on June 4 at Hollywood Park.

Night Life, who has been coming close in graded stakes in Southern California, heads north in search of his first stakes victory.

Surprise Halo, runner-up to Ninebanks in last fall's California Turf Championship and loser by a nose to him in the Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap, is back for another try at his old rival.

Mr. Ararat, who was also entered Saturday, and Handyman Bill are also in the field, but the one to beat is Ninebanks.

"He's been very good," Hollendorfer said of Ninepins, a former claimer who was sixth in last year's Foster City.

But that was then, and this is now.

Ninebanks is much better than he was one year ago. Since that race, he has won three times over the turf here and was second by a neck to David Copperfield in the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall.

Although he has had a bit of a freshener and Hollendorfer is pointing him for several Del Mar turf stakes, Ninebanks should be too tough for his Sunday rivals.

He has been working nicely with weekly six-furlong drills to maintain condition.