04/09/2003 11:00PM

Lewis wants dry track for 'Barb'


SAN MATEO, Calif. - With one eye on the weather forecast and one eye on the running styles of the other entrants, trainer Craig Lewis entered Excessive Barb in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby at Bay Meadows.

Six 3-year-olds, none with Kentucky Derby aspirations, were entered in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Apalachian Thunder is the probable favorite. He set a sizzling 1:08.40 six-furlong pace before fading to third in the $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico on March 30. He was beaten a length in the 1 1/16-mile WinStar Derby, holding on fairly well considering how fast he went early.

He figures to get early pace pressure from Souvenir's Lad, who has won two of his three starts, including a comeback sprint in wire-to-wire fashion on March 13 at Golden Gate Fields.

Tribe has also shown some speed in recording back-to-back victories.

Excessive Barb is one of only two stakes winners in the field, along with Mr. Technique. Excessive Barb won the Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Anita last October. Mr. Technique won the San Mateo Stakes here last summer and the Redwood Empire Stakes at Santa Rosa.

Recent maiden turf winner Risk Reward rounds out the field.

Excessive Barb finished seventh, with Apalachian Thunder fourth, in the Grade 3, 6 1/2-furlong Baldwin down the Santa Anita hillside turf course in his lone start of the year on Feb. 23. Lewis also entered him in Saturday's La Puente at Santa Anita at one mile on the turf, although Saturday's race is his first choice.

Lewis is concerned about a forecast of showers in the Bay Area on Saturday.

"I don't want to get on a track that would be detrimental to him," Lewis said.

Lewis said he was impressed last year when Excessive Barb won the seven-furlong Cavonnier over Crackup, whom Lewis called "a quality horse." Then Excessive Barb ran second to Crackup in the 1 1/16-mile Cal Cup Juvenile.

"He didn't come out of the race too good," Lewis said. "His shins were bothering him.

"He acts like he'll go two turns, and there's lots of speed in this race. He'll be where we want him to be early."

Tribe, who suffered breathing problems as a 2-year-old, could be the wildcard in the pace scenario with Apalachian Thunder and Souvenir's Lad.

He went wire to wire in a seven-furlong maiden win on Jan. 23, then was a close second early before pulling away in his first start at a mile.

"He relaxed and was on the outside," said trainer Cliff Sise Jr. "He was a push-button horse. When [the jockey] asked him to go, he pulled away."