02/20/2008 12:00AM

Lift My Eyes back off maiden win


SAN MATEO, Calif. - When Lift My Eyes was sent north to trainer Armando Lage after a pair of Southern California sprints, Lage liked what he saw while giving the 3-year-old gelding three works.

Lage stretched Lift My Eyes out to a mile and dropped him from the $40,000 maiden claiming ranks to $20,000. He was expecting a good effort and even imagined a trip to the winner's circle.

Lift My Eyes scored a wire-to-wire victory that day and was never pressed, relaxing nicely and finishing well.

"I was surprised how well he ran," Lage said.

Lage is hoping for another big effort Friday when Lift My Eyes meets four rivals in a $40,000 starter allowance at a mile. He is one of three runners, along with Forearlthepearl and Seattle Delegate, who graduated in their last starts. Dance Chief and Urbina both come off second-place finishes in what seems a competitive race.

Lift My Eyes stalked and faded in his debut, then sat back a bit despite running a faster opening half-mile in his second start - both sprints.

In his maiden win on the stretchout, Lage said, "He kind of stumbled into the lead. That's why I was surprised."

Though he shortened stride a bit late, Lift My Eyes was not about to give way.

"I was thinking in the last eighth he'd be tiring," Lage said. "He was full of run at the end."

Lage does not believe Lift My Eyes needs the lead to win on Friday.

Both Forearlthepearl and Seattle Delegate graduated on the front end sprinting in their wins.

Forearlthepearl led wire to wire for a $32,000 tag on Jan. 5 at Golden Gate Fields and was claimed by trainer Terry Knight from trainer Billy Morey. He has met the best local competition, including stakes-placed Pleasure Grounds, Saipan, and Many Rivers.

Seattle Delegate set the pace in his last out, on Feb. 2 at Golden Gate Fields, was headed briefly in the lane, and re-rallied to take the lead. Morey claimed Seattle Delegate for $20,000 from that race. The gelding ran third in his debut for trainer Ed Moger Jr.

Both Seattle Delegate and Forearlthepearl are making their first start around two turns.

Dance Chief won at one mile for $32,000 when dropped out of straight maiden company in his second start. He led in the lane before losing by a head at this $40,000 starter allowance level in his last start, on Jan. 31.

Urbina makes his first start since last Nov. 30 at Sam Houston, debuting for trainer Doug O'Neill. Since running for a $20,000 tag in his debut, he has run in straight maiden company and ran second in a first-level allowance race last time out after his maiden victory.