06/08/2002 12:00AM

Just a Game: Babae stalks and wins

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When trainer Christophe Clement chose to scratch morning-line favorite Voodoo Dancer from Saturday's $147,200 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap, it made the task far easier for Babae, who had finished third to Voodoo Dancer in Aqueduct's Beaugay Handicap five weeks ago. Babae took full advantage, utilizing a perfect trip to hold off favorite Tates Creek and capture the Grade 3 grass race for fillies and mares.

Babae, with Jorge Chavez riding, stalked the early pace of Penny Marie, took command at the top of the stretch when Penny Marie began to fade, then bravely staved off Tates Creek to win by a neck. Tates Creek finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Stylish.

Babae, the second choice at 3-1, paid $8 to win. Because the Chilean-bred mare is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, her first-prize money was $67,920. She would have earned another $60,000 had she been nominated to the Breeders' Cup.

Penny Marie led through fractions of 23.41 and 46.20 seconds for the first half-mile on a turf course rated good. Babae took command with a six-furlong fraction of 1:09.96, and she completed the mile race in 1:34.57.

Babae has now won 11 times in 34 starts. Both of her victories last year came at Belmont, where she is 4 for 11 on turf.

Frank Alexander, who trains Babae for Joseph Platt Jr., said the 6-year-old mare was given a near-six-month break over the winter because she had become difficult to train.

"We turned her out and tried to get her more accustomed to rating," Alexander said. "She took it real well."

Tates Creek came rolling late under Kent Desormeaux. Trainer Bobby Frankel met Desormeaux in the tunnel after the race and yelled at the rider, "Why didn't you go on with her when you broke so good?"

Clement said he scratched Voodoo Dancer because she had just raced 12 days earlier, at Hollywood Park, and did not want to run her on a course that had been softened by recent rain.