03/21/2007 12:00AM

Lage has faith in El Corsario Lula

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - When trainer Armando Lage saw El Corsario Lula entered in a claiming race in his last start, he quickly filled out a claim slip and acquired him for $12,500.

Lage runs the 5-year-old Argentine-bred El Corsario Lula for the first time Friday at Bay Meadows in a $40,000 starter allowance against five rivals at six furlongs.

"I liked the horse when I watched him before," Lage said. "He seems to have a little bit of class."

El Corsario Lula won his second start as a 2-year-old in his native Argentina and then ran third in a stakes race, moved up to second on a disqualification.

He made his U.S. debut at Golden Gate Fields last Sept. 4 after a 16-month layoff and is still looking for his initial victory here.

Since arriving here, El Corsario Lula has raced on turf and dirt, running distances from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. His best effort was his second-place finish when he dropped into the claiming ranks in his last start.

"I could have brought him back for the same price in a nonwinners-of-two, but I really believe he's a lot better than that," said Lage.

El Corsario Lula ran a mile when he was claimed. When sprinting, he finished sixth in an allowance race and fourth in a similar starter allowance race.

But Lage chooses to sprint El Corsario Lula, who actually ran in a pair of Group 1 sprints in his native country, finishing fourth in one.

"In Argentina, he was a decent sprinter," Lage said. "He hasn't been showing the speed he showed in Argentina."

El Corsario Lula breezed three furlongs in his lone workout for Lage, earning a bullet for his move in 37.20 seconds.

"I put that work into him to sharpen him up a bit," Lage said. "I think he'll run faster early."

Victory Style, who set the pace coming down the hillside turf course at Santa Anita last out, has speed and is drawn to the outside, which could help him strategically.

Hesasupervalentine, the runner-up against similar last time, also figures tough here.

Bundoran finished third behind Hesasupervalentine in his first start in 11 months, and could do much better in his second start.